It was with great sadness that the Zambian people learnt that President Mwanawasa had died
on the 19th August. It has been a great mystery and many people at this time are perplexed about what exactly happened to President Mwanawasa. Many wonder what doctors meant when they said the president was STABLE.This word was used so often to describe our late presidents condition whilst in ICU in France.
Out of this tragedy it is prudent that something good comes out of it.Perhaps future presidents should have better medical advisors? However, if a president can die from a stroke, where does that leave the ordinary citizen? Should we be scared when doctors start describing us as stable when we do fall sick? Lets answer a few questions that will give us an understanding as to what happened to our president in France and how we can prevent that happening to us.
Q1. What is a stroke?
A stroke happens when there is a problem with the blood supply to a part of the brain. The area of the brain that does not get enough blood becomes damaged.
A stroke can happen when a blood clot blocks an artery in the brain. A stroke also can happen when the wall of an artery bursts.
Depending on which part of the brain has poor blood supply, a stroke can be mild to severe. It appears our President had a severe stroke.
Q2. What were the likely triggers to President Mwanawasas stroke in Egypt?
– Should the President have been allowed to fly? The oxygen pressure during a flight is lower than that at sea level, so there is a theoretical risk that someone who has recently had a stroke might be harmed by flying. This is because there is a risk of developing deep vein thrombosis ( blood clots). However there is no absolute medical ban on flying for people who have had strokes before. It is however said prior to his death, the President did do quite a bit of traveling. Perhaps that was not a good idea in hind sight. His long flight to Egypyt may have been the last straw.
-Another risk factor for stroke is stress. This may have played a role in the Presidents demise.
-We do know that the President had at least one prior stroke. When a person has one stroke the chances of having a second stroke are increased. The subsequent stroke may leave one with a lot more disability. For example, if you have right-sided stroke and then go on to have a stroke on the other side of the brain, you may have both your right and left side impaired.There are ways however to reduce the risk of recurrence of the stroke.
Q2. How can one avoid having a stroke?
The most important stroke prevention strategies are:
Control High Blood Pressure.
Eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise to reduce blood pressure. Drugs are also available.
Not smoking reduces your risk of stroke.
Manage Heart Disease (heart disease can cause blood clots that find their way to the brain)
Doctors can treat heart disease and may prescribe medication to help prevent the formation of clots. People over 50 should consult their doctors about aspirin therapy.
Both diabetes and high blood pressure can be managed with diet, exercise, weight control and medication. Strict control of blood sugar levels may reduce damage to the brain if a stroke occurs.
Everyone should know his or her cholesterol level. Even though high cholesterol may be a more important risk factor for heart attack, it also is a stroke risk factor that should be treated.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight contributes to other risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular(heart) disease and diabetes. Losing as little as 5kg may lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.
Aerobic exercise reduces your risk of stroke by lowering blood pressure, increasing the level of HDL cholesterol(good cholesterol), and improving the overall health of blood vessels and heart. It also helps with weight reduction and diabetes control, and can reduce stress.
Stress can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure – a risk factor for brain hemorrhage – or long-lasting hypertension. It can also increase the blood’s tendency to clot, which may elevate the risk of stroke. Exercising and using relaxation techniques are good approaches to stress reduction.
By medical correspondent