KARACHI: The incidence of stroke is high among young people in Pakistan, contrary to the global trend indicating greater vulnerability of older patients for the illness. Ninety-nine per cent of the cases of stroke happen suddenly and any risk factor can trigger the disease. Air pollution is one of them.

These points were highlighted in an academic session – The Power of Saving Precious Time – held at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) on Tuesday.

Organised in connection with the World Stroke Day, the event also marked the formal launch of a Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at the Dow hospital.

According to speakers, the risk factors for the stroke included high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and blood vessel ailments, smoking, alcohol and obesity.

“Given the increasing evidence suggesting a strong link between air pollution and stroke, we can say that a large population of Karachi is at risk. The city is one of the most polluted places in the world followed by Lahore and Delhi,” Prof Naila Naeem Shahbaz, chairperson of the university’s neurology department, noted during the discussion.

Most cases of the stroke happened suddenly and any risk factor could trigger a stroke, she added.

Speaking via a video link from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dr Ismail Khatri expressed concern over acute shortage of neurologists in Karachi. “Considering this situation, there is a need to train family physicians and equip them with the latest information as they are the first to encounter stroke victims or those at the risk of stroke.”

According to him, family physicians should make it a priority to check blood pressure of all patients and those with high blood pressure should be kept under surveillance despite the use of medicines.

“High blood pressure is a major risk factor and the incidence of stroke in Pakistan is higher among young people, contrary to the global trend,” he observed.

Senior Physiotherapist Prof Faisal Yameen was of the opinion that breathing exercises were necessary to reactivate any stroke-affected organ. Pulmonary physiotherapy, he pointed out, provided good results, helping the patient to gradually do other exercises.

Dr Jawwadus Salam, in charge neurology unit at the DUHS, discussed the role of computerised tomography (CT scan) of the brain and how it helped treat stroke-affected parts of the brain.

“The most important thing is how soon a stroke patient gets a CT scan because a timely CT scan can lead to immediate treatment.”

Later at the launch of the stroke unit, DUHS Vice Chancellor Prof Muhammad Saeed Quraishy shared that it was crucial to provide immediate diagnosis and treatment to save a paralysed patient from permanent disability.

“Considering the fact that there is no stroke unit in the government sector in Sindh, the facility has assumed greater significance. It’s a starting point to set up more such units,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2022

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