Stroke is prevalent in Qatar’s population with hypertension being the major risk factor, according to an expert. A stroke or brain attack occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is interrupted either due to a clot or a rupture in a blood vessel, which leads to the death of brain cells, resulting in brain damage.
“Stroke is the second leading cause of mortality worldwide,” said Dr Dirk Deleu, Senior Consultant Neurologist and Head, Neurology and Neurophysiology, HMC. “The stroke incidence in the region rages from 28 to 73 per 100,000 people per year. In 1997, stroke patients occupied 10 percent of the beds at Hamad General Hospital. In 2008, 619 stroke cases were admitted to the hospital. It is a prevalent disease in this relatively young population,” he said at the second Qatar Radiology Symposium, which opened here yesterday.
Various studies carried out in the country have shown that hypertension is a major stroke risk factor. A study that includes 270 cases of first-time stroke patients in Qatar shows that 204 had hypertension, 156 had diabetes and 120 had high lipid levels. Ninety-seven of them were smokers. The mean age of occurrence was found to be 57 with 101 Qataris.
Studies also show that the incidence of stroke in the population is intrinsic to its high-risk profile. Genetic variability, cultural diversity and lifestyle differences contribute to factors amongst sub-populations.
In a study conducted on non-cardio embolic ischemic stroke cases at HMC between 2001 and 2005, significant differences between the Arab and South Asian sub-groups of patients were observed with respect to the number of risk factors and occurrence of obesity
Out of 303 patients with ischemic non-cardio embolic stroke, 67 percent were of Arab origin, 32 percent were South Asians and four cases were from other ethnic groups. Hypertension was the most common risk factor in 73.6 percent of the cases. This was followed by dyslipidemia (168 cases), diabetes mellitus (175) and obesity (91).
Seventy-four cases had previous incidence of stroke and 77 were smokers. Mortality occurred in 5.3 percent of the above cases.
In a more recent study on posterior circulation ischemic stroke cases involving 116 patients, obesity was found to be the major risk factor, contributing to 77 cases. Hypertension contributed to 61 percent of the cases, followed by diabetes (51 percent) and smoking (20 percent).
The studies also showed that rise in stroke risk factor prevalence, lack of prevention programmes and misapplication or underutilisation of stroke preventative factors add to high stroke rates and serve to widen the stroke prevention gap.
A cross-sectional community-based survey at PHC centres in GCC states based on 3,700 interviews showed that only 29 percent were familiar with stroke. Patients ignorant about stroke had higher incidence of diabetes, hypertension and had more than one risk factor.
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