Do you know?
In Singapore, stroke is the 4 th leading cause of death 1 and Atrial Fibrillation (AF), a heart condition characterised by irregular heartbeat, increases the risk of stroke caused by blood clots by five-fold. With a rapidly aging population, the burden of stroke is expected to increase exponentially, posing challenges to Singapore’s healthcare system and society. It is estimated that by 2050, Asia will have 72 million AF patients, and 2.9 million among them will suffer from an AF-associated stroke 2 .
The good news is that AF-associated stroke can be prevented through optimal anticoagulant therapy, such as NOACs (non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants). It is important to recognize the symptoms of AF and stroke, and to seek medical advice accordingly.
Anthony is a 70 year old stroke survivor. When he suffered a stroke in 2011, it came as a surprise to him as he considered himself a relatively healthy person. He exercised three times a week, watched his diet (eating mostly steamed fish, boiled vegetables and lots of fruits) and had quit smoking and drinking for the past 20 years. Still, he powered through his recovery, and returned to work two years later. Today, Anthony is part of the Singapore National Stroke Association and helps to raise awareness about stroke among Singaporeans. He is married to Marie and they have two adult children Stefanie and Eugene.
Anthony shares more about life before and after stroke:
1. How was your life before stroke? How did stroke change it?
I used to work as a consulting engineer and handled quite a lot of portfolios. My job was quite stressful, and I needed to travel very frequently, often up to three weeks in a month. Despite having high blood pressure, I still thought I was relatively healthy because I don’t smoke or drink, and try to exercise three times a week. However, when work gets busy, it’s difficult to have regular meals and sleep cycles, and I often don’t get the chance to exercise when I’m travelling.
My stroke happened in Nov 2011. When I woke up, I was unable to walk in a straight line. My wife was worried and immediately drove me to the A&E where the doctors sent me to do a series of tests which included blood tests, ECG, X Ray, MIG, etc. About 8 hours later, the team of doctors informed me that I had an ischemic stroke (a stroke caused by a blood clot) and needed to stay in hospital for observation. At that point, I had lost feeling in my left hand and leg, and could not move them.
I was hospitalized for about 6 weeks after my stroke for the doctors to monitor my condition. Fortunately, my stroke was not very severe; I was cognizant and could still use my right hand and leg to help me move. However, because I could not move my left hand and leg, simple daily activities like showering or pouring a glass of water were still very tedious tasks.
It was a difficult time and I went through a period of depression and thought of giving up. With the support of my family, doctors and nurses who kept motivating myself to think positively, I started my road to recovery through occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
At the beginning of 2013, I went back to work at my engineering company. My stroke experience has helped me learn to focus more on my health and appreciate my family more. I also decided to join the Singapore National Stroke Association www.snsa.org.sg to help other stroke sufferers and educate them on stroke. At SNSA, we regularly visit hospitals to cheer up stroke patients and provide encouragement to their caregivers.
2. Do you think you could have prevented the stroke?
Stroke didn’t come suddenly to me and I feel that if I had known earlier I would have been able to avoid it. There were a few warning signs such as giddiness and blackouts which I experienced but I ignored or attributed them to work-related stress. It was only after I was diagnosed with stroke that my doctor informed me that these were symptoms of stroke. I feel that if I had known earlier that these were symptoms of stroke, I would have been able to treat it earlier.
The good news is that, as compared to 2011, there are a lot more avenues that help educate and increase awareness on stroke and stroke prevention. Singapore’s medical facilities and the activities run by SNSA have helped many people understand more about stroke prevention and to increase their knowledge on stroke recovery.
3. How did your family react to your stroke, and how did they support you?
My stroke brought a lot of anxiety to my family and friends. My wife was very worried for me and this brought her a lot of stress, which caused her to eat irregularly and consume food and drinks with high sugar content, resulting in her becoming diabetic. Fortunately, now her condition is under control.
Through it all, my wife always stood by me and gave me fantastic support. She gave me a lot of encouragement and motivated me to be independent. She pushed me to change my negative mindset into positive and encouraged me to do things on my own. Her motivation was very helpful in helping me on my road to recovery. My family was the main reason I was able to make a relatively quick recovery and go back to work after a year of rehabilitation.
4. What would be your advice to all?
I would advise everyone to keep a well-balanced lifestyle which includes having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Stress is also a big contributor to stroke, so it is important to keep your stress level in check.
Stroke can be prevented and there are currently a lot of materials and facilities put in place by hospitals and the SNSA that provide more information on stroke prevention and stroke recovery journey. I would advise people to get to know more about stroke, understand the symptoms of stroke so that they’ll be able to detect stroke early and get the appropriate treatment. Thanks Anthony for providing some valuable insights to our readers. Having lost my own grandma recently due to stroke, I understand how important is it for us to work towards preventing stroke.
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