Friday, March 21, 2014


According to the World Stroke Organization, an estimated 16 million people have a stroke each year with nearly 6 million of them losing their lives to the disease. One in six people will have stroke in their lifetime. Stroke is also the leading cause of long-term disability irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity or country

In Malaysia, stroke is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. All of us know at least one person who has had a stroke, so these figures are certainly not plucked from thin air.

Despite the alarming statistics, there is hope for stroke patients provided they work hard at rehabilitation, and adopt a positive attitude towards recovery.

My brother had a very mild stroke a couple of years back. It was more of a warning than a full-blown stroke, and he was lucky to have recovered quickly. I hope he has taken steps to adopt more a healthy lifestyle.

Several of my friends who have suffered a stroke are now on the mend and regaining their cognitive and motor functions, including driving. It takes time, but as long as the patient is determined to work towards rehabilitation and recovery with strong support from family members and caregivers, he can look forward to a normal life after a stroke. My friends' successful recovery is proof that life can still go on after a stroke.

Here are 10 warning signs of a stroke: (adapted from
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Less frequent symptoms (but occur often in women):
  • Sudden onset of nausea, and vomiting
  • Brief loss of consciousness or fainting, confusion or convulsions
  • Sudden hiccups
  • Sudden face and limb pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath and chest pain

3 Easy Tests to Assess Symptoms:
  • Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Ask the person to raise his arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Ask the person to say a simple sentence. Watch for garbled words and slurred speech.

If you think you or someone with you is having a stroke, here's what to do:
  • Call the medics right away. "Time saved is brain saved," says Larry B. Goldstein, MD, of the American Stroke Association. Do not wait and see if the symptoms subside. 
  • Call even if symptoms disappear. 
  • Note the time when symptoms appeared and let the paramedics know. 
  • Do not give the patient aspirin. “A stroke is a brain event, not a heart attack,” explains Dr. Goldstein. “You can’t tell what kind of stroke the person is having. If it’s hemorrhagic, aspirin will make the brain bleed worse.”

The National Stroke Association of Malaysia (NASAM) runs a rehabilitation program at its centre in 12, Jalan 7/2, Petaling Jaya. There are branches in other states as well. For more information, call 03-7956 4840, or visit their website.

If you live in Singapore, and would like to find out more about stroke prevention and support groups, you can check out the Singapore National Stroke Association. You might want to attend the Stroke Club session on 29 March 2014. The speaker is Dr Christopher Chen. More about him on the website.

Related article:

Life after a stroke 

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