Survey exposes lack of awareness about strokes

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Mar 06, 2013 - Page 3

More than half of respondents in a survey had little knowledge about the causes of strokes and the “golden three-hour window” for proper treatment, the Taipei Post-stroke Patients Rehabilitation Association said yesterday.

According to the survey, which was conducted last month, 50.9 percent of respondents do not have a clear understanding of strokes, although 21 percent of those above the age of 30 have suffered symptoms that may be linked to transient ischemic attacks.

More than 31 percent of those polled had no idea what causes strokes.

While the majority of respondents (63.1 percent) knew that hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to a stroke, only 33.2 percent, 30.8 percent and 18.3 percent respectively knew that diabetes, hyperlipemia and heart disease can cause strokes.

Wong Wen-chang (翁文章), attending physician at Taipei Veterans General Hospital’s neurovascular diseases division, cautioned the public on the matter.

“Most Taiwanese assume winter is the only season when strokes occur, but acute cerebral infraction — a stroke with a higher rate of incidence during cold weather — is only one of two main categories of strokes,” Wong said.

Most stroke patients suffer hemorrhagic strokes, Wong said, adding that hemorrhagic strokes account for 70 percent of all cases.

Aside from a numbness in the hands and feet, Wong said, dizziness, tinnitus, blurred vision or even impotence are all cause for concern as they could be symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke.

The survey found that most people have heard of transient ischemic attacks, whose symptoms include loss of muscle control in the face, slurred speech, numbness on one side or both sides of the body, difficulty swallowing or headaches.

Wong urged those who have experienced such attacks to get proper medical treatment, as failing to do so can increase the chances of getting a stroke four or five times.

The golden three-hour window for stroke treatment is crucial, Wong said.

“Stroke patients should arrive at the hospital within the first two hours after the stroke and receive treatment within three hours of stroke symptoms,” he added.

Wong said that as most stroke patients develop depression following the potentially disabling disease, family support is extremely important for their psychological health.