New Delhi: Changing habits and sedentary lifestyles have made the incidence of strokes more prevalent among South Asians, notably Indians, and can induce permanent disability or prove fatal, even as preventive measures are at hand, doctors maintain.
According to them, an aggravation of intracranial atherosclerosis (ICAD), the hardening of the arteries that supply oxygen to the brain, can impede blood flow by narrowing and obstruction of blood vessels and result in strokes.
"While ICAD in Western population could range from 8-10 percent of the stroke patients, it could be as high as 35-40 percent for South Asians," says Shakir Husain, chief of interventional neurology at New Delhi's Saket City Hospital.
Alarmingly, the prevalence is more pronounced among the country's youth because of a lifestyle where smoking is fashionable and alcohol consumption is trendy. "There is this urge for wanting more and stopping at nothing, along with stress," Hussain noted.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Stroke by two experts, Jeyaraj Durai Pandian and Paulin Sudhan, the prevalence rate of strokes is 84-262 per 100,000 population in rural India and 334-424 out of 100,000 population in cities.
"India, like other developing countries, is in the midst of a stroke epidemic. There is a huge burden of strokes with significant regional variations," they said in their paper, adding this called for an organised effort by both the government and private sector.
"It's assumed the average age of patients with strokes in developing countries is usually 15 years younger than those in the developed countries. In India, nearly one-fifth of the patients with first-ever stroke admitted to hospitals is estimated at 40 years or less."
According to the Stroke and Neurointervention Foundation, an Indian non-profit that spreads awareness on this ailment, a stroke is a localised damage to brain tissues, caused by loss of oxygen or interbal bleeding. In many cases, a stroke can be fatal.
Doctors explain that the risk factors include, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, smoking, nutritional deficiency, high cholesterol, Type-A personalities like high achievers under constant stress and lack of information about its early symptoms and intensity.
"From the preventive healthcare point of view, our country needs to be educated. Doctors will be of little help in this sphere. The government would have to take initiatives to facilitate awareness among both rural and urban populations," said Husain.
In a study published last October in leading health journal The Lancet, titled "Global and Regional Burden of Stroke" - which looked at its incidence between 1990 and 2010 - a third of all strokes globally now occur in the 20-64-year age group.
Even as the overall deaths rates due to strokes were down globally, the number of people who succumbed to it was 10 times higher in the lower and middle-income countries, said the study, predicting the numbers to double worldwide by 2030.
Following are some preventive measures to guard against strokes, as prescribed by Shakir Husain, chief of interventional nueurology at New Delhi's Saket City Hospital:
Lead a simple, yogic life: Eat simple, beat stress through physical and mental exercise by conditioning the body and mind to be calm and flexible.
Lifestyle modification: Incorporate physical exercise in your daily routine, create happiness and instil peace in your surroundings.
Dietary regulation: Watch and reduce the intake of saturated fats, consume more fibre and create a good balance of protein, fibre, carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fats.
Measure your food: One's calorie intake should be with accordance to his or her nature of work. A sedentary worker's calorie intake should be less than that of a field worker.
Adopt good habits: Control temper and work toward the maintenance of well-balanced and flexible personality. Stop smoking. Reduce, rather avoid, consumption of alcohol.