-By Dr Naresh Purohit ( Executive Member- Indian Academy of Neurosciences , Advisor- National Mental Health Programme.)

New Delhi: Stroke is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in India. As per a recent study, the prevalence rate of stroke ranges over 84,000 per 100000 in rural areas and over 35000 per 100000 in urban areas. There is a high fatality rate due to stroke along with a higher rate of disability as well.

According to a recent study conducted by University of North California, Indians developed ischemic stroke at a younger age in comparison to participants from other developed countries. Apart from the common factors (poor eating habits, alcohol and smoking), high prevalence of physical inactivity among Indian groups was the major contributing factor.

As per the study, the average age for Indians suffering a stroke attack was 52 years in comparison to 71 years among Americans. The major reason attributable was physical inactivity with 94% of the patients from India suffering a small vessel occlusion in comparison to 60% population in the US. The study also estimated that in comparison to US patients (already suffered from mini-stroke) only 2% of the Indian patient suffering from stroke had regular exercise (5 times a week) as per recommendation.

Stroke is a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention and treatment. It is the brain injury caused by blockage of blood flow to the brain thereby gradually destroying the brain cells and in some cases can result to bleeding as well.

Risk of stroke:

The lifetime risk of stroke increases after the age of 55. But now with the lifestyle changes and adoption of unhealthy habits like lack of physical exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and new cases of stroke are likely to be seen in the younger generation of the country. In this fast pace of life advent of technology has made out life easier, but also has reduced the amount of physical activity. Due to increased stress as well as rising incidences of diabetes and hypertension there is a sudden shift in the age bracket of developing lifestyle ailments.

Prevention of Stroke – 

An important aspect for stroke prevention. Apart from other major factors contributing for stroke, regular physical inactivity also accounts for the onset of stroke at an early age. 

Regular exercise not only helps in maintaining the overall health but also keeps at bay a list full of diseases. Other major ailments that are related to raise the risk of stroke include hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol levels.

Hypertension is one of the biggest risk factors for stroke, attributing to over 50% of ischemic strokes (due to blockage) and increasing the chances of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain). Thus regular exercise helps in maintaining the blood pressure levels, thereby reducing the risk for brain stroke by up to 80%.

As it is a well known fact that, diabetics have a twice likely chance to suffer from stroke, as the increased blood sugar levels damages all the major blood vessels providing as a gateway for onset of ischemic stroke. Regular exercising not only helps in controlling the blood glucose levels but also curbs down the chances of developing a stroke attack in diabetics.

A high cholesterol level in the body is another attributing factor for stroke. With increased levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) the risk for plaque buildup also increases causing atherosclerosis. This makes them prone to losing the integrity of their lining leading to formation of clots, which in turn can prevents blood flow and leads to a stroke. Lack of physical exercise leads to major complications and can have devastating effect on the vascular system of the brain as well. Following regular exercise pattern and balanced diet, one can maintain the ratio of good cholesterol in the body. 

Exercise : 

Since the Indian population is highly vulnerable to Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension and Cholesterol deposits which develop easily, hence we need to exercise more than the western population. Start slowly and gradually develop your exercise schedule. Muscle and bone strengthening exercises can also be performed but these should be complementary to aerobic exercises like brisk walking, cycling etc.
Moderate intensity exercises can be done but it is always advisable to consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Low intensity exercise, if done regularly has long term benefits and helps in lower down the risk for many heart diseases that may lead to stroke in future. Lower intensity exercise are beneficial for people with other health problems. Low intensity exercises include walking, stretching, yoga and household work.

Exercise more to prevent another stroke:

There are lot of ways to stay active, even if one finds difficult to move around. One need to adapt new activities. If one is currently receiving any medication then do consult your doctor. They will advice for new exercises and activities to try. Going to a gym may be the perfect option if there are  right facilities and equipments. If your movement has been affected by stroke, one  may find chair-based exercises more suitable. These exercises involve doing series of seated movements to increase the heart rate and movements of muscles and joints.