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Treat a stroke as if it is an emergency

A stroke is an emergency – even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Across the world a drop in the number of stroke patients seeking emergency care in this time is reported, which can have a major impact on the recovery of these individuals.

Western Cape Government Health facilities still offer emergency care to patients and take precautions to protect visitors from Covid-19 infection.

“It seems fewer people are seeking emergency care if they think they are having a stroke,” says Dr Colette Gunst, a family physician in the Cape Winelands. In the Western Cape, strokes are among the top five natural causes of death.

“Quick action within the first four hours after one notices symptoms can mean the difference between life and death, and permanent disability,” Gunst adds.

It is important to remember a stroke occurs when oxygen-rich blood supply is cut off from the brain.

If you suddenly notice these new symptoms, you may be having a stroke: . A loss of balance or coordination. Blurry vision, or a loss of vision. One corner of one’s mouth or face droops. Weakness in an arm or leg. If one struggles to speak, or speaks in a way that is hard for others to understand.

Get emergency help immediately. Call 10177 to summon an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital emergency centre.

If one has not previously had a stroke, staff at local clinics can help one determine one’s risk and help one make changes to lower the risk. Going for regular blood pressure and blood sugar tests is essential.

People who have had a stroke in the past are at a higher risk of another stroke. One reduces one’s chances of having a stroke by stopping smoking, drinking more water and less alcohol, managing one’s stress through regular exercise and including a variety of fruits and vegetables in one’s diet.

If suffering from a chronic condition such as hypertension or diabetes, it is important to continue one’s treatment and medication according to what a health-care practitioner has advised. Never stop treatment without consulting a doctor. As chronic patients have a higher risk of contracting severe Covid-19, one can arrange with a clinic to deliver medication (if they offer this service) or provide two months’ supply to reduce the number of times one visits the clinic.

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