African News Agency interviewed Bianca Tromp of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in South Africa on World Stroke Day. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - South Africa has seen an exponential growth in hypertension over the past 20 years and a lack of awareness around cardio-vascular disease (CVD) results in people being undiagnosed and untreated until it is too late.

To mark National Stroke Week, there are a number of campaigns directed at the public and aimed at reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Campaigners such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) believe in mobilising people to act now to live longer, better, heart-healthy lives.

The chief executive of the HSFSA, Pamela Naidoo, said: “The public needs to be aware that adopting healthy behaviours is key to the prevention of heart disease and strokes. It is important to know your blood pressure measure, eat nutritious food,  engage in physical activity, avoid excessive alcohol use and quit tobacco smoking.”

Karisha Quarrie, a doctor with Life Healthcare hospitals, said: “The early identification of stroke, co-ordinated stroke care and specialised rehabilitation interventions by dedicated stroke teams can minimise secondary complications and disability and enhance the recovery process.” 

According to the campaign, “the public needs to be aware of what a stroke is, have knowledge about stroke symptoms and, more importantly, what to do in case you suspect a stroke”.

Irma Aggenbach, Emergency Centre manager at Mediclinic Panorama in  Parow said: “If you are having a stroke, your chances of recovery would depend on two critical factors: somebody recognising that you are experiencing a stroke and getting help fast from emergency medical services, or taking you to a stroke-ready hospital.”

Throughout the week, the HSFSA, the Department of Health and other groups will be working to drive stroke awareness to empower members of the public to recognise and respond appropriately in a stroke emergency.

Carica Combrink, from the Angels Initiative, said: “People closest to us are the ‘first responders’ when a stroke occurs. If they can act with certainty and speed to secure emergency treatment, we can save many lives and reduce the severity of long-term disability.”

The HSFSA says that for each minute a stroke goes untreated, a person loses about 1.9million neurons. Being able to recognise stroke symptoms quickly and going to your nearest emergency hospital is crucial. If you know how to spot stroke symptoms, you can get help faster, which can save a life and reduce disability. 

Use the FAST acronym to recognise the signs of stroke:

  • Face: Smile and see if one side of the face droops.
  • Arm: Raise both arms. Does one arm drift down?
  • Speech: Repeat any sentence. Is there trouble speaking or understanding?
  • Time: Think quickly. Every minute counts in accessing care.

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus