Young people are at increasing risk of getting stroke

image of a brain
Replica of a brain (Photo credit: Milad Fakurian)

There are growing concerns about the onslaught of stroke among young Jamaicans and its effect on the nation’s workforce. Johns Hopkins Medicine defines the disease as a brain attack that happens when blood flow to the brain is stopped.

 According to consultant neurologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Dr Tameka March-Downer in a media report, “We are still having quite a high number of patients with stroke, and what we are now seeing is a shift in the age, the 30-to-40-year-olds, compared to the over 65 who we were seeing previously.”

There is also no stroke riskometer in the country, a device that assesses someone’s risk for developing a stroke. “Stroke has to be addressed as a non-communicable disease, and a part of that plan is to put in place protocols in terms of management for patients from the pre-hospital to the hospital, to the post-hospital, and also an essential part is for primary care prevention, which is where the riskometer will come in,” March-Downer said. “We are resource stricken and, therefore, in tackling stroke, we must have a big arm at the primary prevention level and a medium arm at the treatment of stroke. It is always better to prevent a stroke and it is also cost effective,” March-Downer added.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data published in 2020, stroke deaths in Jamaica reached over 2,400 total deaths. And the health agency, WHO, notes only 40 per cent of Jamaicans who suffered a stroke last year recovered sufficiently to return to work. So, it negatively affects the family’s income and increases the unemployment rate.

But Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, has expressed the building of at least three stroke units at major hospitals in Jamaica, over the next year, in collaboration with the Jamaica Stroke Alliance. The units will be located at the Kingston Public Hospital, the University Hospital of the West Indies, and the Cornwall Regional Hospital. “It is a very important area to address. A lot of it is lifestyle –our consumption habits, diet, exercise – some of it is hereditary, but what is very, very clear is that it requires urgent attention,” Tufton said.

Jamaicans are encouraged to rush to a nearby hospital immediately after the onset of a stroke. March-Downer and Tufton are members of the Jamaican delegation attending the third Latin American Ministerial Meeting on Stroke in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as part of the Global Stroke Alliance 2022 Meeting. This year’s meeting will have in attendance representatives from more than 25 countries, eight health ministers, and more than 100 national and international guests.



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