The annual National Stroke Awareness campaign by the Stroke Services Improvement (SSI), supported by the Ministry of Health (MOH), continues to emphasise the need to raise awareness of how to stop and spot stroke. New data on hyperacute stroke treatment and stroke risk factors highlight the importance of public stroke education. There will be many activities on World Stroke Day on 29th October. Of particular note, Singapore is hosting the World Stroke Congress, one of the largest international stroke conferences.
More patients receiving hyperacute treatments
SSI’s annual stroke public awareness campaigns highlighting the signs of stroke, together with efforts to ensure prompt access to emergency stroke care and widened indications for use, have resulted in more stroke patients receiving treatments that offer a better chance of recovery. Rates of thrombolysis (the use of medication to dissolve blood clots which cause ischaemic stroke) have increased from 2.6% in 2010 to 7.1% in 2020 according to the Singapore Stroke Registry Annual Report 2020. SSI data shows the number of patients undergoing mechanical thrombectomy (physical extraction of the blood clot) has risen 26% year on year between 2017 and 2021.
Associate Professor Deidre De Silva, Chair, Stroke Services Improvement team, MOH and Head & Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute (Singapore General Hospital Campus), said, “Many more stroke patients in Singapore have received effective treatments such as thrombolysis and mechanical thrombectomy, which result in higher likelihood of greater independence for stroke survivors. We will continue to step up efforts to raise public awareness of stroke symptoms and what to do when spotted, so that even more patients can receive these treatments”.
Timely access to urgent treatment in stroke is critical to the clinical outcome. Patients with thrombotic stroke (blockage of blood vessels supplying the nervous system) need to receive treatment which unblocks the blood vessel within a limited time window. This year’s campaign continues to raise awareness of stroke symptoms and the need to act immediately to access emergency care. To spot stroke, think ‘F’ for Face drooping, ‘A’ for Arm weakness, ‘S’ for Speech difficulty, and ‘T’ for Time to call 995. The acronym F.A.S.T simplifies the understanding of stroke recognition and reinforces the importance of early detection to minimise the extent of permanent damage and disability.
Health screening essential to reduce stroke
In 2020, 8,846 people suffered a stroke. Yet 4 in 5 strokes are preventable. Many adults in Singapore are unaware they are at high risk of stroke because they are living with undiagnosed ‘silent’ health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and/or irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). These conditions usually have no symptoms and can only be detected by health screenings.
“As a stroke neurologist, I see many new stroke patients who mistakenly think they had no risk factors because they did not go for regular screening to detect them. It is such a shame, as detection and management of risk factors such as high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation could have prevented the stroke from occurring,” said Assoc Prof De Silva.
Raising awareness and advocacy on World Stroke Day
Several events are taking place in Singapore on World Stroke Day, 29 October 2022, to raise awareness of stroke and to show support for stroke survivors. These include:
- Landmark light-up: As a gesture of advocacy and support for the stroke community, there will be light up of many landmarks and buildings including Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Flyer, and National Gallery Singapore on the evening of 29 October 2022.
- Stepping Out for Stroke: The Singapore National Stroke Association’s (SNSA) annual signature walkathon, Stepping Out For Stroke (SOFS) returns this year to advocate for stroke awareness and raise funds for stroke survivors and caregivers. The walkathon on 29 October 2022 will be flagged off by Guest of Honour, Minister of State, Sun Xue Ling at Bayfront Event Square @ Marina Bay Sands.
- This year, Stroke Support Station (S3) will be holding an event at Jurong Lake Gardens on 29 October 2022, World Stroke Day. The theme is “Healthier Together” and S3 will be taking a walk along a scenic route at Rasau Walk Boardwalk with Guest of Honour, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat, Special Guest Senior Minister Mr Teo Chee Hean, S3’s Chairman, Board Members, Supporters, Stroke Survivors and Caregivers. The walk will end at the Garden House, where a ceremonial programme will be held to commemorate World Stroke Day.
- World Stroke Congress 2022: This international scientific conference will be held at Suntec Exhibition and Convention Centre from 26 to 29 October, providing a platform for stroke healthcare professionals and researchers to present new trial data, share best practices in stroke management throughout the stroke journey and hear perspectives from stroke survivors and caregivers. This is the first time the Congress is being held in Southeast Asia and it will include an emphasis on stroke issues in Asia such as specific stroke patterns and coordination of care in this region.