Advances in stroke rehabilitation in the Western Cape have reduced severe disability and the need for institutionalisation; however the incidence and prevalence of stroke victims is still increasing and remains the third leading cause of death in the province.

This is according to Western Cape Minister of Health, Nomafrench Mbombo, who delivered the keynote address at a stroke awareness roundtable hosted at the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre (WCRC) in the lead up to World Stroke Day, observed annually on October 29th and Stroke Awareness Week which takes place from the 28th October to 3rd November 2017.

Minister Mbombo applauded the WCRC for the valuable contribution it makes to physical rehabilitation services offered to residents in the Western Cape, but highlighted that preventative action always surpasses the best treatment.

“Stroke is the leading cause of disability in South Africa; more than 400 South Africans suffer from a stroke daily. Many survivors are left chronically disabled and one third of these survivors are at risk of having a second stroke within a year,” said Minister Mbombo.

“Maintaining a healthy and disciplined lifestyle is the best preventative measure for stroke. Whereas, cure cannot always treat us completely, especially when the damage of a stroke has already happened,” continued Minister Mbombo.

The WCRC offers specialised, multi-disciplinary rehabilitation programmes for persons with physical disabilities, including stroke survivors. Approximately 60% of their clients reside in the Metro East District, which includes areas such as Khayelitsha and Mfuleni.

“The WCRC admits approximately 700 – 800 patients per year. Approximately 30 – 35% of patients admitted to our facility are stroke victims. Men and women were admitted at equal rates,” said CEO at the WCRC, Jenny Hendry.

Hendry explained that the majority of strokes are caused by hypertension, diabetes, tobacco and substance abuse as well as obesity.

“Sedentary lifestyle choices such as inactivity and poor diet, increases your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, which are all precursors to stroke. These are controllable and if altered can reduce the likelihood of stroke,” said Hendry.

Hendry added that over the past three years the facility has seen a noticeable increase of younger patients between the ages of 15 – 40 years being admitted for stroke rehabilitation.

“26% of patients admitted during the 2014/2015 financial year were between the ages of 15 – 40 years, this percentage increased by 9% by the end of the 2016/ 2017 financial year,” said Hendry.

Hendry also reported that Individuals with stroke who are HIV positive are younger than patients with stroke who do not have HIV.

“HIV weakens and slowly destroys the body’s immune system, leaving an individual susceptible to numerous illnesses. Your central nervous system is also affected, causing a number of neurological complications, such as stroke,” said Hendry.

Minister Mbombo explained that stroke or cerebral vascular accident (CVA) is caused by an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. “Approximately 80% of strokes are caused by thromboembolic disease (a blood clot), while 20% of strokes are caused by bleeding into the brain (haemorrhage).

“Stroke can cause permanent/ partial paralysis, loss of speech, vision and cognitive difficulty, bowel or bladder control problems and swallowing challenges,” concluded Minister Mbombo.

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