Last week, leading up – Madaraka Day – was the National Stroke week.
‘Madaraka’ means self-autonomy in English; and the definition of autonomy is having the freedom to act independently.
We need autonomy – both as a nation, and in our individual biological anatomy.
And nothing takes away autonomy from a person like a stroke!
My friend and mentor Binyavanga Wainaina, who at only age 48, died last Tuesday, from the final of a series of strokes he had suffered these last three or four years. He was a very independent person – both of body and mind.
The strokes he started to suffer in his mid-forties not only impaired his movement a bit, and slurred his speech, but left him baffled and bewildered like: ‘Why on earth is this happening to me?’
Because my mother passed away, also at age 48, after suffering a serious cerebral stroke quarter a century ago when we were quite young, I am going to dedicate the ‘Men Only’ that I do monthly on health issues – we cannot just talk men, alcohol and football here (and address Ms Wanga’s issues) – to the issue of stroke.
I know many lazy writers would simply Google, then copy paste their findings onto the page.
But I deeply respect you my loyal reader, so I actually went to the nearby Nairobi West Hospital (who have a dedicated HDU and ICU unit to handle and treat cases of strokes) and spoke to their specialist Doctor Deepak Kumar.
Before we go further, it is important to know that strokes are the number one killer of Kenyans in the category of NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases).
The rest of the top ten NCD killers in Kenya in descending order are – heart attack, unintentional injuries (like road accidents), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, diarrhoeal diseases (like cholera and typhoid), neonatal conditions, malaria, intentional injuries (like suicide) and geriatric conditions (old age).
So if you are sitting there dreaming that you are going to die in bed of old age, wake up, man.
What Nairobi West Hospital’s Dr Deepak is saying is you are more likely to have a splitting headache, experience a sudden loss of vision or altered level of consciousness, get slurred speech then collapse.
If it is on the road, you may not understand what by-passers/gawkers are saying.
Then you are rushed to hospital by relatives or a Good Samaritan, with one side of your body having gone totally numb.
This is what is known as a stroke!
And even writing about it leaves me short of breath, almost at the point of a panic attack, because of having lived with a stroke-stricken mom for 14 years before the next lightning bolt fatally struck.
So how does one avoid getting a stroke, this number one killer of our beloved people across the country?
Dr Deepak advises that the factors that pre-determine stroke victims are the following.
Obesity, a lot of alcohol, smoking (of course), cholesterol and hereditary factors (if it’s in the family).
The doctor says stroke is not a poor man’s disease, but has increasingly become common in urban areas due to our sedentary lifestyles, among other things.
People wake up, get into cars, sit in front of computers the whole day, stuff themselves at lunch-time with chips and other greasy meals, drive home to lie on a sofa in front of the TV to watch a Netflix series, sleep, repeat – then wonder where stuff like a stroke came from.
Don’t smoke. Drink in moderation, eat healthy meals AND – Dr Deepak said this is very important – take a brisk walk every weekday for at least half an hour, or jog for 15 minutes, or run for ten minutes daily, Monday to Friday.
“Don’t even cheat yourself that you will go to the gym and get trim and slim,” Dr Kumar chuckles.
He says if you are always getting splitting headaches, don’t just swallow painkillers and imagine life’s a doll. Go get it checked out at a facility like the hospital – it could be the harbinger of a stroke.
“Folks with hyper-tension are in higher danger of getting a stroke,” the good doctor warned.
Even if you feel healthy, he advises, go for regular check-ups of blood pressure and blood sugar.
“Those few coins you spend on consultancy may just end up saving your life,” he concludes.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke