Failure to Act on Early Warning Signs Causes Critical Delay in Medical Care; More than Half of UAE Stroke Patients are Aged 45 or Younger; Unhealthy Lifestyle Increases Risk
People under 45 are suffering unnecessary brain damage and disabilities because they ignore the first warning signs of stroke, one of the UAE’s leading stroke physicians has warned.
Dr. Victoria Mifsud, a physician in the Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s network of healthcare providers, said while most people associated strokes with older patients, the rise of lifestyle diseases had increased the risk for younger age groups.
“Stroke is certainly age-related, but that doesn’t mean it can’t affect younger adults,” said Dr. Mifsud. “Risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are rising, along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and we are seeing more people in younger age groups experiencing strokes.”
“The danger is that they will ignore the warning signs because they don’t think they are old enough, or the symptoms may not seem serious at first. They’ll often wait to seek help because they think the symptoms may eventually go away. But the reality is that from the moment a stroke happens, you are losing nearly two million neurons every minute in the brain. Therefore, we always emphasize the importance of acting fast and seeking medical help immediately to limit the long-term damage caused by stroke.
“To help prevent stroke, it is important to maintain a healthy weight, as well as follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. We also strongly recommend regular check-ups with a family physician to treat any risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.”
According to figures from the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, about 50 percent of stroke patients in the UAE are aged 45 or younger. This compares with a global average of 80 percent of patients being 65 or older.
There are two types of stroke. An ischemic stroke is the most common and is caused by a blocked artery leading to the brain, interrupting blood supply and causing cell death. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel ruptures and spills blood into or around the brain, also causing damage to brain cells.
While each person experiences different stroke symptoms, there are some common warning signs. These include:
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body;
- Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes;
- Slurred speech, difficulty talking or understanding what others are saying;
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause;
- Sudden loss of balance or unstable walking.
Ahead of World Stroke Day on October 29, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has embarked on an education campaign for UAE residents to recognize the symptoms of stroke through the acronym BE FAST, which stands for Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech and Time.
“Seeking medical attention immediately is essential to avoiding permanent damage,” said Dr. Mifsud. “It’s important not to ignore the symptoms, even if they last minutes. Every second counts and the best outcome can be achieved if you seek treatment as soon as possible.”
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is the official stroke center for Abu Dhabi City, combining the world-class capabilities of the hospital’s Emergency Medicine Institute, Imaging Institute, Heart & Vascular Institute, and Neurological Institute to provide rapid, state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment of stroke.