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Times of India
22 July 2010
By Pratibha Masand

'Mumbaikars Ignorant of Strokes'
When a forty–year–old civil engineer in south Mumbai was asked what he thought was a stroke, he replied that being exposed in the sun for too long would give one a sunstroke.

The question was part of a survey conducted by Indian Stroke Association in Mumbai. The results were shocking, as few people could identify a stroke, its symptoms and what should be done if a person suffers from a stroke. “We found even those from the higher economic strata do not know what a stroke is, what causes it and where to take a person who suffers from a stroke,” said Dr Shirish Hastak, vice–president of the Indian Stroke Association.

While 50% of people questioned think a stroke means “a heart attack”, 17% think it is paralysis, and 13% think the discussion is about “sun strokes”. About 20% people said they did not have any idea what stroke was. What was even more shocking was that 32% of those questioned had either suffered from a stroke themselves or had a relative who suffered from a stroke. The irony is that stroke is among the top five health problems, causing most deaths. “Approximately, 3,000 people in India suffer from a stroke everyday. I would say there is around 15–20% mortality in India, which means almost 450 people die due to a stroke,” said Dr Hastak.

City doctors feel the main reason there is negligible awareness about stroke is that it is painless. “When a person suffers from stroke, the symptoms are generally loss of vision, inability to move a body part, droop in facial muscle or heaviness in the tongue which affects the speech. None of these give the patient any pain,” said Dr Hastak.

Dr Werner Hacke, the first president of the European Stroke Organisation and vice–president of the World Federation of Neurology says there aren’t enough neurologists in the country to tell people what a stroke exactly is. “There are four times more neurologists in Germany than in India. Also, in India, there is a dearth of nursing homes and hospitals who will admit a stroke patient without a specialized neurology department or surgeons. This leads to loss of golden time of three to six hours.”

“Many forms of stroke are actually reversible. If the patient can be taken to a big hospital with neuro–speciality facilities in the first few hours, they can be saved,” said Dr Uday Limaye, head of interventional neuroradiology, KEM Hospital.

What Should Be Done If Someone Is Having A Stroke?

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