Experts have said that awareness can easily prevent stroke or brain attack, which causes deaths and long-term disabilities in patients.
Stroke is a condition in which blood flow to a part of the brain is disrupted, resulting in oxygen starvation, brain damage and loss of function.
"Stroke is a medical emergency. But very few people are aware about a drug that can help patients recover within an hour if they reach hospital immediately," said Vineet Suri, senior consultant of neurology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, at a press conference here ahead of World Stroke Day Oct 29.
According to neurosurgeons, a stroke is preventable if the patient is admitted to hospital within four-and-a-half-hour after the symptoms start to show, which is also termed as the 'golden hour' in medical terminology.
"If a person faints, feels numbing of limbs, slurring of speech, severe headache or vomiting, he should be immediately rushed to hospital.
"A CT (computerised tomography) scan should be done and a drug tissue, plasminogen activator, should be administered within four-and-a-half-hour of the stroke. The drug restores some blood flow to the brain by dissolving clots in the brain," Suri said.
When the patient is not taken to hospital immediately, Suri said, the blood flow to the brain is cut off for a longer duration thus causing greater damage.
The drug costs around Rs.50,000-Rs.75,000 and is available in most of the government hospitals, he said.
"Over 40 percent of Indians have symptoms of stroke, but they usually ignore them. The number of deaths and people disabled due to strokes is rising rapidly in India," said P.N. Renjen, another neurologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
Increasing urbanisation, changing lifestyles and rising stress levels are to be blamed for the increasing stroke cases in the country, the neurologist added.
Smoking, diet with high cholesterol level, high blood pressure and diabetes increase the risk of stroke, Renjen said.
Experts suggest that regular exercise, for example a brisk walk of about 30 minutes at least four days a week, can go a long way in preventing stroke.
Doctors also advise inclusion of apple, vegetables and vitamin B12-rich food in diet to lower the risk of stroke.
"Eating about 25 gm of apple, pear and green vegetables per day or vitamin B12-rich food like fish and chicken can lower the risk of stroke," Renjen said.
According to World Stroke Organisation, stroke has already reached epidemic proportions and one in six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. It is the second leading cause of death for people above 60 years and fifth leading cause in those aged between 15-59.
About six million people die of strokes each year.