A STROKE occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off. Strokes are the fourth biggest natural cause of death in South Africa; annually almost 360 people suffer strokes, 110 die and 90 are left with a life-changing disability, this according to healthcare organisation The Angels Initiative. On Monday, October 29, World Stroke Day was commemorated. On this day, communities are encouraged to talk about early identification, treatment, and prevention. According to the Angels Initiative, stroke is caused by blockage or bleeding in the brain that damages brain cells. “This damage can have different effects depending on where it happens in the brain. It can affect the body, mobility and speech, as well as how patients think and feel. “The type of disability caused by a stroke depends on the extent of brain damage and what part of the brain is damaged,” said Carica Combrink of The Angels Initiative. “The amazing reality is that the vast majority of strokes are preventable. Educating people about stroke has all sorts of positive ramifications. “While prevention tops the list, another key is teaching the warning signs and to react immediately,” Combrink said.The common warning signs of stroke include face drooping, arm drifting, and slurred speech. TIPS TO PREVENT STROKE • Know your personal risk factors for stroke, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, elevated cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.Control or manage these conditions by working with your healthcare providers.• Be active, exercise and engage in physical activity every day.• Choose a healthy diet.“It is important to emphasise a significant element in the fight against stroke that is easy, quick, free and potentially life-changing and rather than focusing on alarming statistics, I prefer encouraging people to focus on the benefits of good health. “Whatever you enjoy doing, you can do more of it, for longer,” Combrink said.The Angels Initiative has partnered with the South African Stroke Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Resuscitation Council of South Africa, Emergency Medicine Society of South Africa, Faculty of Consulting Physicians and Emergency Care Society of South Africa. The Angels Initiative is also working to enable public and private sector hospitals to advance protocols and systems to ensure better patient outcomes.