22 July 2018
Strokes have begun to affect more young people worldwide due to hectic urban lifestyles and poor habits. Photo: Bloomberg
Strokes have begun to affect more young people worldwide due to hectic urban lifestyles and poor habits. Photo: Bloomberg

Strokes: Risk factors and warning signs

Miss Wong, a healthy individual in her twenties, had good readings in her recent body checkup report. However, two weeks ago, while she was having a massage session at a beauty house, she suffered numbness in her limbs, dizziness and then a black-out.

The above-mentioned symptoms were all gone by the time she arrived at the hospital, but the physician told her that she had undergone a “mini-stroke”, medically known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), a condition in which the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted.

You might wonder what a mini-stroke means, and how it differs from a normal stroke.

Stoke is a cerebral vascular disease and it occurs when blood supply to the brain is reduced or blocked for certain reasons, leading to a sudden lack of oxygen in the brain cells and subsequently affecting corresponding body functions that are controlled by that part of brain cells.

Stroke can be divided into two types: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Though TIA is only a related condition of stroke that may last between five minutes and an hour with symptoms off from patients within 24 hours, it serves as a warning sign as about 10 percent of TIA patients might have a full stroke in five years.

There are a number of risk factors for stroke. Males have a high chance than females, and individuals who have a family history of stroke, diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also at higher risk.

Generally speaking, stroke is more likely to occur in people at the age of 55 or above. However, the illness has started to attack younger people. This is largely due to hectic urban lifestyle. People are experiencing high pressure, taking unhealthy diet, smoking or drinking, and lacking exercise.

From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, stroke is the result of dysfunctions of the heart, liver, spleen and kidneys.

When there is too much heat accumulated in the heart and liver, or fluid in the heart, liver and kidneys is running low, the heat trapped inside the body would cause a reversed flow of qi and blood. Meanwhile, poor spleen and stomach functions, together with an unhealthy diet, would cause accumulation of fat and toxins, which would also adversely affect the flow of qi and blood.

Though stroke begins very suddenly, over half of the people show recognizable signs and symptoms ahead of the actual event. If the signs are interpreted accurately, patients would be able to benefit a lot from early and timely diagnosis and treatment provided by medical professionals.

“FAST” is an acronym used as a mnemonic to help detect and enhance responsiveness to stroke victim needs.

1. Face — the face might have dropped on one side, and the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
2. Arms — the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them up because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
3. Speech — the speech may be slurred, or the person may not be able to talk at all.
4. Time — it is time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

Stroke might be easier to develop in the morning as it is the moment when one’s blood pressure starts going up.

When a person drinks too much or when one gets too emotional — either due to euphoria, anger or fright – it might also lead to an easy induction of the illness.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 7.

Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Registered Chinese medicine practitioner

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