ISLAMABAD - More than 350,000 Pakistanis suffer from stroke every year and despite being the third cause of death and the leading cause of disability throughout the world including Pakistan it has received little attention from healthcare authorities.

Health experts urged the government to establish national stroke prevention programme and coordinate public awareness campaign, prevention guidelines and research related to stroke in Pakistan.

Various events were held to mark the World Stroke Day on Tuesday. The day is being observed across the world to disseminate essential life-saving information and share knowledge about actions and lifestyle behaviours that could avert stroke. "1 in 6" was a theme selected by World Stroke Organisation (WSO) last year and continued this year along with the slogan "because I care".

Addressing a public awareness seminar organised by Shifa International Hospital (SIH), Consultant Neurologist and Head of Neurology Division at SIH Dr Maimoona Siddiqui gave her presentation on the theme "1 in 6". She said that stroke is a sudden brain damage and lack of blood flow to the brain caused by a clot or rupture of a blood vessel. Every six seconds, someone's quality of life suffers due to stroke. They become physically disabled, she added.

 "Stroke is the second leading cause of death for people above 60. About 350,000 Pakistanis suffer from stroke every year, she stated. Stroke is a treatable and preventable catastrophe," she added.

Associate Consultant Neurologist SIH Dr Mohammad Amjad in his presentation briefly discussed the causes, sign, symptoms and management of stroke. He said that hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, orally chewing tobacco and heart diseases are the leading causes of stroke. "Patients with hypertension have 8 times greater chance of having a stroke."

He informed that speech difficulties, ataxia (difficulty in walking), facial weakness, vertigo (room spinning around you), double vision and numbness on the face/arm/leg and extremity weakness are a few symptoms of this deadly neurological disorder. "There is no pain associated with stroke," Dr. Amjad informed. If you have stress, habit of high salt intake and family history then you are at risk, he warned.

Dr Khaula Ashraf, Associate Consultant, Physical & Rehabilitation Medicine, SIH, discussed the importance of physiotherapy in rehabilitation of stroke patients. She said that maximum recovery can occur within the first 6 months. Stroke sufferers and caregivers should learn to do physiotherapy at home to enhance patient's quality of life, she advised.

Meanwhile, health experts urged the government to establish national stroke prevention programme and coordinate public awareness campaign, prevention guidelines and research related to stroke in Pakistan.

Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) President Dr Misbahul Aziz, Neuro Physician Prof Muhammad Tariq and Neuro Physician Dr Abdul Malik said in a statement that stroke is one of the unfortunate diseases in Pakistan.

They said that it is projected that there are more than 400,000 new stroke patients every year. Due to poor post stroke care up to 40 per cent die within six months and the rest are added to a pool of disabled people.

Describing the causes of stroke they said that it is because very high prevalence of high blood pressure in our country. According to National Health survey every third Pakistani above age 45 is hypertensive. Majority of these patients are unaware of their high blood pressure and they only find out once they have a stroke or heart attack, which is too late. We have five million diabetics and around 20 million tobacco users (smokers, shisha, chewing tobacco), major risk factors for stroke.