As the fourth single leading cause of death in the UK, strokes are a condition that could not only have tragic consequences, but for survivors can leave lasting disabilities.
The Stroke Association has worked with Rotary for the past 14 years to raise awareness of one of the leading causes of the condition, hypertension (or high blood pressure as it is more commonly known), and make communities aware that they may be at risk.
This is something Rotarian Mukesh Malhotra knows only too well. Having been a strong advocate for raising the awareness of high blood pressure, the former Community Services Chairman for Rotary never thought that he would be the one needing support.
Mukesh, a member of the Rotary Club of Hounslow and a business manager with British Airways, spent his career travelling the world. However, all this jet-setting had a downside.
He explained: “The constant travelling meant I was not resting as I should have been, and although to the outside world my job would seem glamorous, the stress and exhaustion began to take hold.”
“When my first stroke hit it could be argued that the toll of my job was a contributing factor, but I was lucky enough to have been with my son, who is a doctor, and he took me to hospital straight away. This quick response meant I was able to regain many of my faculties within weeks.”
“I had just begun to phase myself back into work when I suffered my second stroke.”
“This time I wasn’t quite as lucky and I have suffered from aphasia, which made it difficult to speak and communicate afterwards. I have made a slow recovery and although I don’t have full mobility in my left side I want to urge that life does go on after you suffer a stroke and I am an example of that.”
Although the cause of Mukesh’s stroke wasn’t determined, the biggest risk factor of the condition is suffering from hypertension.
We often say blood pressure could be a silent killer because there are often no symptoms.”
It is estimated that in the UK 5.5 million people are undiagnosed with high blood pressure, something Rotary clubs across the country are trying to reduce.
Each year, events are being held in local shopping centres, gyms and community centres on Know Your Blood Pressure Day, which takes place this year on 22nd April, to raise awareness about how easy it can be to detect.
Although a raised blood pressure commonly presents no symptoms, unless it is particularly high, it is something that is relatively simple to treat.
Through simple lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, making dietary changes or becoming more active you can self-manage your blood pressure.
It is these simple changes which can reduce your risk of stroke. Alexis Wieroniey, Deputy Director for Policy and Influencing at the Stroke Association, pointed out that one in seven people in the UK suffer from hypertension – millions more are unaware they suffer from it.
She explained: “This is why it is so important that we hold community-based blood pressure testing events, like the ones Rotary hold, as sometimes people can find it intimidating to visit a doctor to get checked.”
“We often say high blood pressure could be a silent killer because there are often no symptoms and it is the leading cause of strokes with over half in the UK caused by hypertension.”
“However, it is really simply to test whether someone has a high blood pressure and through the Know Your Blood Pressure testing events you can get peace of mind within a matter of minutes. All the events are overseen by a health professional and we can then provide an indication of what your blood pressure reading is and refer you to a GP if that is required.”
Rotary clubs have been instrumental in the success of Know Your Blood Pressure Days and since the campaign began in 2003, over one million blood pressure readings have been taken.
Each year the events are becoming even more successful with last year seeing the highest numbers of blood pressure tests with over 70,000 people visiting the events.
However, there are still communities that are at a higher risk of stroke and Alexis believes that the Stroke Association and Rotary can work together to ensure these communities are being served.
We are so appreciative of the support from Rotarians.”
“Research has proven that people from more deprived areas are at an increased risk of a stroke and in general, people from these areas are likely to experience more severe strokes.”
“In many cases it is simple to treat and it could make all the difference.”
“We believe that Rotary clubs can really support us in this wish as these events are already taking place, and with small modifications and new ways of thinking, we can target communities that have little awareness around the condition.”
Currently it costs the NHS around £23,000 to treat someone who has suffered a stroke, and then there are additional costs for ongoing social care and rehabilitation.
Alexis added: “Although the cost to the NHS and for on-going care is substantial, the impact on the individual can be far greater. Suffering from a stroke can be life-altering and it’s not only the physical implications but also the affect to confidence and mental well-being.”
“That is why we’re proud of the work we do at the Stroke Association to try and reduce the number of strokes happening, and we are so appreciative of the support from Rotarians.”
“Without them on the ground spreading the word we couldn’t have achieved all we have done.”