The incidence of stroke in the population could be halved if people’s blood pressure was controlled to the recommended targets, according to a leading local professor.
Professor of translational medicine at NUI Galway Martin O’Donnell said 10 risk factors (all of which are modifiable) account for 90 per cent of stroke risk.
However, high blood pressure is the main risk factor. “Thirty per cent of Irish adults have high blood pressure and this rises to 70 per cent of Irish people over the age of 70,” he outlined.
Addressing a packed public meeting - organised by local heart charity Croi in collaboration with the clinical research facility to heighten public awareness about stroke recognition and prevention - he said controlling blood pressure through reduced salt intake, losing weight, reducing alcohol intake and taking more exercise has been shown to reduce risk by more than 40 per cent.
Dr Tom Walsh, a consultant stroke expert at UHG, emphasised the need for greater awareness of stroke symptoms.
“A stroke is the sudden onset of arm, leg or face weakness or sensory disturbance on one side of the body usually accompanied by speech disturbance and vision loss in one eye lasting more 24 hours.”
He explained there are two types of stroke - one caused by a blood clot to the brain (accounting for approximately 85 per cent of all strokes) and the second caused by a burst or bleeding vessel in the brain (accounting for about 15 per cent of all strokes).
“The key message is to act FAST, call the emergency services and get the patient to hospital. The quicker the better as ‘time is brain,’” he said.
The meeting heard that stroke experts at University Hospital Galway are developing new services at the hospital to optimise outcomes for stroke patients.
Recent advances in stroke care at the regional hospital include the opening of a dedicated stroke unit in May and a 24/7 consultant delivered thrombolysis (clot bursting medication) service which was launched in June. Both developments are part of a larger plan to reduce the impact of stroke on both patients and their families. As many as one person every hour in Ireland suffers a stroke with the condition now being the leading cause of adult disability throughout the world.
Closing the meeting, Croí CEO Neil Johnson highlighted the similarity in the risk factors for heart disease and stroke and emphasised how lifestyle and behaviour change can significantly reduce the incidence and impact of both.
He said Croí and the stroke specialists at UHG are working together to improve outcomes for stroke patients and their families.