Strokes becoming endemic in Bhutan

The JDWNRH sees at least one stroke patient a day

Health: The 51-year-old woman who was recently airlifted from Khomsar in Zhemgang after she suffered a stroke is in intensive care unit at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital.

She suffered heavy bleeding on the right side of her brain because of high blood pressure. The bleeding spread to the main part of the brain causing her body to paralyse, neurosurgeon with JDWNRH Dr Tashi Tenzin said.

JDWNRH sees at least one stroke patient everyday and doctors say the number of stroke patients is on the rise annually. From about 200 patients in 2014, the number has increased to over 300 this year.

As Bhutan joined the world to observe the World Stroke Day on December 26, health officials highlighted their concern on the increasing incidence of stroke among young people.

To cater to an increasing number of stroke patients, the hospital has a designated ward where all six beds are occupied throughout the year.

A 51-year-old suffering stroke is ‘premature, unfortunate and scary’, medical specialist Dr Tashi Wangdi said. “Bhutanese are getting stroke prematurely, when by age, they should be active and productive,” he said.

The common strokes reported in Bhutan are hemorrhagic and ischemic. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel in the brain bursts due to high blood pressure. When that happens, the blood spills into or around the brain and creates swelling and pressure, thereby damaging cells and tissue in the brain.

A prolonged diabetes and hypertension without adequate treatment will destroy the blood vessels blocking passage of blood to certain parts of the body.

This leads to the second type of stroke called ischemic stroke, Dr Tashi Wangdi said.

Dr Tashi Wangdi said, increasing non-communicable disease (NCD) such as stroke, heart attack and diabetics are the major cause for premature morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death) in the country. Premature morbidity and mortality, he said, is somebody becoming disabled or dying before the age of 70.

“At least one stroke patient a day is a big concern,” he said. “The epidemic of NCD has come into Bhutan. It is going to really impact our people’s health and make health care services expensive.”

He added that this trend would steadily question the sustainability of free health care in the country.

One of the barriers of NCD awareness is illiteracy in Bhutan say doctors, where people are unable to understand the disease.

Speaking to a crowd of about 200 who had gathered at the hospital courtyard to observe the day that’s themed “I’m a women, stroke affects me,” Dr Tashi Tenzin said that 80 percent of strokes are avoidable with timely health check ups.

Nirmala Pokhrel

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