More stroke cases in S'pore in 2018: How do I prevent stroke and what should I look out for?

In Singapore, stroke is the fourth-most common cause of death, with the number of stroke cases expected to increase as the population ages. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Stroke is the fourth-most common cause of death in Singapore.

As the world celebrates World Stroke Day this month on Oct 29, here are some facts about this deadly silent killer and what can be done to prevent it.

What is stroke?

- Occurs when there is a disruption of blood supply to a part of the brain, resulting in damage to that area.

- Two main types:

1) Ischaemic stroke: Occurs when blood flow to the brain is obstructed by a clot. It is more common, contributing to about 80 per cent of stroke cases.

2) Haemorrhagic stroke: Occurs when there is bleeding in the brain, often due to rupture/bursting of a blood vessel. It is less common, making up the remaining 20 per cent of stroke cases.

How prevalent is stroke?

- Globally, stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, with 116 million years of healthy life lost each year to the disease. One in four adults over the age of 25 will suffer from a stroke in their lifetime.

- In Singapore, stroke is the fourth-most common cause of death. Latest data showed that there were about 8,300 stroke cases admitted to public hospitals in 2018, an increase of 5 per cent from 2017.

- The number of stroke cases is expected to increase in Singapore as the population ages. The number of Singaporeans aged 65 and above is estimated to almost double by 2030, making up a quarter of the population.

How do I prevent stroke?

- An unhealthy lifestyle results in a 66 per cent increased risk of stroke; 80 per cent of cases are preventable through lifestyle modifications.

- In Singapore, the five most common risk factors are: hypertension (high blood pressure), high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).

- Other risk factors that are modifiable include obesity, low physical activity, depression and high alcohol intake.

- Risk factors which cannot be modified include:

1) Age: The risk doubles every 10 years after age 55.

2) Gender: Men have a higher risk. The risk in women increases after menopause.

3) Family history.

4) Previous history of stroke.

What can I do to minimise the risk?

1) Have a healthy lifestyle:

- Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake - no more than two standard drinks for men and one standard drink for women a day.

- Have a healthy diet that is low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grain.

- Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week.

- Keep a healthy weight, with a body mass index of 18.5 to 22.9.

2) Have a good control of medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

3) Go for regular health screening.

What are the warning signs of stroke?

- Call 995 if you see these signs of a stroke, known by the acronym FAST.

1) F: Face weakness

Does one side of the face droop? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven or lopsided?

2) A: Arm weakness

Ask the person to raise both arms. Can they raise both arms and keep them up?

3) S: Speech difficulty

Does the person's speech sound slurred or unclear?

4) T: Time to act fast

If you observe or experience any of these signs, rush to the hospital immediately.

How can stroke be managed?

- Treatment depends on the cause of stroke.

- For ischaemic stroke, the clot may be dissolved by giving medicine intravenously, or is removed mechanically, otherwise known as endovascular treatment.

- Haemorrhagic stroke is usually treated with surgery or endovascular therapy.

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