A generation of young people could be ‘lost’ to stroke, warn physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, as they work to raise awareness of the condition among young people in advance of World Stroke Day on October 29.
A leading cause of permanent disability and death in the UAE, the young age of many stroke victims in the country is of particular alarm to doctors at Abu Dhabi’s designated stroke center. While most strokes in Europe occur in people aged over 65, at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, the average age of stroke patients is just 55. Almost one in four (24.2 %) stroke patients treated at the hospital is under the age of 45 and the vast majority of stroke patients it sees (62%) are under the age of 60.
“Stroke can steal years of happy, independent and functional life from a person and to see patients come into our Emergency Department in their 20s or 30s with stroke symptoms is absolutely heartbreaking. It doesn’t have to be this way – many strokes are preventable. Despite the numerous advances we have made in treating and managing stroke, the effects they have on young patients can still remain with them for a long time,” says Dr. Victoria Mifsud, Medical Director for the Stroke Center at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Factors closely linked to an increased risk of stroke include uncontrolled high blood pressure and smoking. A survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in August 2021 found that of respondents aged between 25 and 34, 42% smoked, 45% have high blood pressure and 45% consider themselves stressed – three strong risk factors for strokes. In addition, 32% were obese and 40% fail to get enough exercise.
More than two thirds (69.6%) of stroke patients seen at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi are men. While men tend to have less healthy lifestyle habits than women, they are also less likely to get a health check or speak to a doctor if they have a health concern, making them a critical target for reducing the impact of stroke on the community.
“The results of this survey certainly align with our experiences as a stroke program. We have seen thousands of stroke patients since opening our doors and the young age of patients is a huge concern for us. I know that without swift action to make healthier choices, we cannot expect the tide to turn soon, potentially robbing a number of young people - particularly young men - of their youth, mobility and independence,” continues Dr. Mifsud.
Stroke symptoms occur suddenly and include weakness or numbness of the face, arm and/or leg on one side of the body, slurred speech or difficulty talking, loss of vision out of one or both eyes and loss of balance. People who suspect they or someone they know may be having a stroke should dial 999 and call an ambulance immediately.
“Stroke is a medical emergency. From the moment a stroke happens, the brain loses around 1.9 million neurons every minute. There is a window of time from the onset of symptoms that gives us more treatment options, enabling much better outcomes. The longer a patient takes to get the right medical help, the more serious the long-term effects can be,” concludes Dr. Mifsud.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is the official stroke center for Abu Dhabi city; all patients suffering suspected stroke symptoms are automatically brought to the hospital’s Emergency Department. The hospital’s stroke response team includes caregivers from its Neurological Institute, Imaging Institute, Critical Care Institute and Heart & Vascular Institute. The team provides rapid, state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment of stroke. In addition, caregivers provide patients with acute rehabilitation including physical, occupational and speech therapy during their recovery.
Patients can continue their treatment journey and transition to post-acute rehabilitation and long-term rehabilitation thanks to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s partner, Amana Healthcare, part of the Mubadala Health network. An Amana case manager is based at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi to assess patient needs and facilitate a seamless transfer. Stroke symptoms include a sudden loss of balance, one side of the face drooping when trying to smile, slurred speech, and loss of vision in one or both eyes. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi uses the acronym BE FAST: Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech and Time to help people identify the signs of stroke and to have them take action in a prompt and timely manner.
For more information or to book an appointment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, call 800 8 CCAD (2223) visit www.clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae or download the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi app.
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