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World Stroke Day 2020: Expert explains the link between COVID-19 and stroke and how you can prevent it

Stroke needs a timely treatment within the window period of 5 hours.

World Stroke Day: Dr N K Venkataramana, Founder Chairman BRAINS Hospitals & Chief Neurosurgeon - BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, Bangalore, explains the link between COVID-19 and stroke. Read on to know how you can prevent the risk.

Written by Arushi Bidhuri |Published : October 29, 2020 2:23 PM IST

World Stroke Day is observed on October 29 every year to raise awareness about the prevention and treatment of the condition. It highlights the serious nature and high rates of stroke. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. There are many factors that increase the risk of stroke, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, sedentary work, high cholesterol, excessive alcoholism, smoking and genetic factors. According to a study published in The Lancet Neurology, COVID-19 patients are at a higher risk of stroke.

We talked to Dr N K Venkataramana, Founder Chairman BRAINS Hospitals & Chief Neurosurgeon - BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, Bangalore, to understand the connection between COVID 19 and stroke. He opined that COVID 19 is an additional risk factor for stroke. It increases the risk of stroke by 5.9 per cent regardless of age. "Presence of SARS-Cov-2 increases the death rate of COVID patients. Stroke in COVID needs to be recognized and be treated aggressively to reduce death as well as disability."

"The predilection of COVID virus to the endothelium of blood vessels due to the presence of ACE 2 enzyme as well as a hypercoagulable state caused by COVID is responsible for the stroke. The increased coagulation of blood induces development of blood clots within the blood vessels. In a small percentage of people, coronavirus can also cause a brain haemorrhage. This warrants early diagnosis and intensive treatment for both COVID-19 as well as stroke along with the correction of coagulation abnormalities," he explained.

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What causes a stroke?

Dr Venkataramana explained that the brain is the most fastidious organ demanding maximum blood supply. Structurally, the blood vessels help the blood to go directly from the heart to the brain first as well as a circle of blood vessels inside the skull. Any disruption of the system can lead to a stroke, which can be termed as a Brain attack. An ischemic stroke happens when the blood supply is blocked. This leads to loss of function of that part of the brain with associated paralysis. You may experience symptoms such as sudden loss of vision, numbness of the body, loss of speech, loss of movements of the hand and leg, severe giddiness, double vision or imbalance.

How can you prevent a stroke?

  • Risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol must be identified and treated immediately before it causes permanent damage in the body.
  • People who have a strong family history of stroke needs to be extra careful.
  • Cut back on alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can prevent your lungs from making substances that help your blood clot. Thereby, increasing the risk of having a stroke.
  • Get enough physical exercise to avoid the risk of stroke. Living a sedentary lifestyle puts you at a higher risk of having a stroke.
  • Smoking is another major risk factor. Nicotine present in cigarettes makes your heart beat faster and increase your blood pressure. This can increase the risk of stroke.
  • Adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and periodic health check-ups are other lifestyle factors to alleviate the chances of a stroke.

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