Choose to exercise or have a stroke

Stroke kills, Stroke is preventable, Exercise is the way to prevent stroke, It is cheaper to prevent stroke than to treat a stroke,
The question is this: What suits your schedule better?
Exercise an hour a day or be dead for 24 hours a day?

What is stroke?

Stroke is a problem that occurs in the brain. It occurs when there is no blood supply to a part of the brain which makes that part of the brain suffer. It means therefore that whatever functions that part of the brain does, stops. 

If for example, it is the part of that brain that supplies eyesight, or to do with hearing or moving the arm or legs or speech. If there is no blood supply to that part of the brain, then, that part of the brain becomes injured. It means it stops functioning. That is essentially what stroke is. The person may therefore go blind, deaf, or have weakness of an arm, leg or both.

Incidence in Nigeria

Stroke is common in Nigeria. It is on the increase in Nigeria and it is something that most Nigerians, perhaps, know little about or appreciate the magnitude of the problem.

Stroke has a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding it, which we need to debunk. The key fact is that every Nigerian knows or is aware of somebody who has suffered a stroke, either it is in the family or is in the neighborhood or has heard of some prominent figures who have suffered a stroke. So, it is something that is prevalent in Nigeria.

What are the risk factors?

The major risk factor for stroke in Nigeria is hypertension or high blood pressure. Other conditions such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, sickle cell disease are also risk factors for stroke.

Certainly, of course, even just being black, Nigerians, Africans, black people in general, predisposes us to stroke. Stroke is also a condition that can run in families.

Take care of mini-stroke, if a stroke has happened, especially, if it is a small stroke, it is important to take that as a warning sign and then do whatever we can, both the doctor and the patient, to prevent a bigger stroke. 

Somebody who has had a small stroke needs to go to the hospital and not ignore it and think because the stroke has gone away, “my arm is now functioning; that is the end of the matter,” it is often time not the end of the matter. That is actually a warning sign that there is a bigger stroke coming.
The fact is that once one stroke has happened, another one might also come along. And, if it keeps happening like that, then the patient will become disabled or die in due course.

What are therefore the symptoms of stroke?

What we teach is the acronym called FAST which means Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problem and Telephone or go to the hospital as quickly as possible.

For stroke, if anybody has weakness of the face, if they have weakness of the arm or leg, if they have problem with speech, or they have difficulty in walking, if they have sudden confusion, sudden severe headache, then, that essentially is stroke; they need to go to the hospital. Those are the symptoms of stroke.

How can we prevent a stroke?

The most important prevention is lifestyle or choices and changes that we must make. People who smoke must stop smoking. People who are alcoholic must stop drinking. People who are obese must lose weight.

Those who do not exercise have to get out and exercise; to keep the heart going properly. Anybody who has been diagnosed as having hypertension must continue to do whatever they can to keep the blood pressure under control.

If people think that hypertension goes away, that it can be treated or cured by pastors or imams or they take some native medications; that is a big mistake. Hypertension doesn’t go away, that is why we call it a silent killer. It can be normal today and tomorrow it goes high. That is why we need continued perfect control.

Would you say stroke is curable?

Stroke is not curable but it is manageable. Stroke is treatable but it is not curable in the sense that if somebody has had one stroke, they can have another one. They are at an increased risk of having another one. So, stroke can be managed in the sense that we can help in reducing the disability and preventing another stroke.

We can help with treatment of the stroke if it has happened. But, talk about cure, it is akin to having a miracle; the hand of God on that person. This is why a lot of people go to prayer houses. But, the best thing for stroke is to prevent it from happening. That is in your hands!

Do we have adequate facilities and personnel for the treatment of this disease condition in Nigeria? We certainly do not. But, we are slowly building capacity. For now, stroke prevention is the best treatment for stroke.

Key points

Prevention of stroke in addition to medical treatment of hypertension and other risk factors includes a healthy lifestyle which incorporates exercise.

As always, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program particularly if you are sedentary. Starting an exercise regimen slowly and building over time.

Written by Dr. Biodun Ogungbo

Formatted by Dr. Onuoha

Image credit: Godaddy stock photo

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