UAE: 50% stroke patients are below 45 years old, says doctor

Expert explains all about symptoms of the condition and how it can lead to serious heart problems


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Fri 11 Nov 2022, 5:29 PM

Last updated: Fri 11 Nov 2022, 5:42 PM

Community members suffering a stroke are more likely to develop major heart problems in future, a neurology expert said.

Stroke is life-threatening condition that occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain gets blocked.

Dr Suhail Al Rukn, consultant neurologist and president of Emirates Neurology Society, noted that stroke survivors have increased risk of serious heart complications.

“Strokes do not only involve the brain and they may affect other organs, mainly the heart. Even though strokes occur in the brain, we know that after an acute stroke, a syndrome called ‘broken heart’ may occur. The patient would experience severe dysfunction in the heart and poor cardiac function as a result of the acute stroke. With certain types of strokes, patients can experience arrhythmia, acute myocardial function, and in some cases even a coma,” Dr Al Rukn said during an interview.

Strokes and heart diseases are the leading causes of death globally. Every year in the UAE, around 8,000 to 10,000 patients suffer from a stroke, equating to about 1 patient every hour.

Stroke or heart attack? Know the symptoms

Dr Al Rukn noted that both heart attack and stroke are two medical emergencies that can be often confused as they have one key factor in common: both are caused by a sudden interruption in blood flow.

“A heart attack is an acute decrease in the blood flow in one of the main arteries going to the heart muscle. The usual symptoms are severe chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in the left shoulder and heavy breathing. Meanwhile, a stroke is an acute neurological deficit. The symptoms include weakness in one side of the body, speech problems, drooping of the face, limb weakness, issues with balance, vision problems, and an acute headache.”

Covid-19 raises risk of having a stroke

“New research shows that patients who have Covid-19 are at higher risk of thrombosis and hypercoagulation (both are blood clotting disorders). With that, the risks of pulmonary embolisms and strokes are higher. A local study published here in the UAE found that during the peak period of the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of patients suffered from acute ischemic strokes. These types of strokes are not very common and tend to be more severe.”

Ischemic stroke, which accounts for 87 per cent of all cases, is when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed.

Different ways to prevent a stroke

About 50 per cent of the stroke patients in the UAE are below the age of 45 years, as compared to the global average, where 80 per cent of stroke patients are above the age of 65 years.

Dr Al Rukn underlined that to prevent a stroke it’s important to understand the main four factors that increase its occurrence: hypertension, diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol levels.

“With such risk factors, the optimal prevention would be to decrease one’s salt intake and commit to healthy lifestyle habits such as committing to a daily exercise routine of at least 15 to 30 minutes a day to decrease blood pressure.”

Dr Al Rukn advised people aged above 32 to visit their general practitioner annually to monitor their blood pressure and sugar levels, and those above 45 years to do a check-up twice a year.

“My last piece of advice is to quit smoking as soon as possible as it is an awful habit that not only causes lung cancer, but one that increases the risk of developing numerous cardiovascular diseases.”

Dr Al Rukn noted that in the past 10 years, stroke care in the UAE has largely evolved with more than 10 stroke units in addition to various comprehensive stroke centres and highly advanced techniques in treating acute ischemic strokes.

“One of the advantages we have in the UAE is that our emergency medical services are very advanced when it comes to new innovative techniques and the latest technologies.”

Dr Al Rukn called for greater awareness among the general public about the importance of ‘golden hour’ and to rush a patient immediately to the emergency unit.

“The golden hour refers to the window present within the first 4.5 hours from the onset of symptoms. When patients are treated within the golden hour, the percentage of chronic deficits decreases significantly. Every minute the blood vessels are blocked, 1.9 million brain cells die. However, 1 of 3 patients who arrive for treatment within 90 minutes from symptom onset might be able to make a full recovery. Hence, as soon as symptoms arise, it is important to call the ambulance immediately,” Dr Al Rukn added.


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