What You Should Know About COVID-19 And A Stroke

What You Should Know about COVID-19 And A Stroke_ (002)
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Affinity Health, the leading provider of affordable medical insurance in SA, examines the available evidence and advises what to do if someone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or a stroke.

What are the Side Effects of COVID-19?

We know that COVID-19 is a virus that attacks the lungs. However, did you know that it can also cause blood clots, resulting in a severe stroke and other cardiovascular diseases?

In South Africa, a stroke (sometimes called a “brain attack”) is responsible for some 25,000 deaths annually.

Every day, 360 people have a stroke, 110 of whom die and 90 of whom are left with a life-altering disability.

According to WebMD, people with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – can develop abnormal blood clotting as an inflammatory response to the virus. This increases the risk of blood clots forming. A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery leading to the brain.

Stroke can be divided into two categories.

An ischemic stroke is similar to a heart attack. A stroke, however, happens in the brain’s blood vessels. Clots can form in the blood vessels of the brain. They also form in blood vessels leading to the brain, or blood vessels elsewhere in the body and then travel to the brain. Blood flow to the brain’s cells is blocked by these clots. When too much plaque (fatty deposits and cholesterol) clogs the brain’s blood vessels, an ischemic stroke can occur. Ischemic strokes account for about 80% of all strokes.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or breaks. As a result, blood seeps into the brain tissue, causing brain cell damage. High blood pressure and brain aneurysms are the most common causes of hemorrhagic stroke.

Healio shares that the burden on the health care system and other factors related to the pandemic causes the frequency of stroke events to be underestimated.

“Evidence suggests there is a connection between COVID-19 and stroke, although the relationship and risks are not yet clear,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, there have been numerous reports of COVID-19 patients also having a stroke. But how much COVID-19 may increase the risk of stroke and in which groups of patients are still grey areas.”

Understanding the risk factors is the best way to prevent strokes from ever happening. It’s also important to know, and understand, the subtle warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. These include:

  • Sudden loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Face paralysis (drooping or a numb sensation) 
  • Arm Weakness
  • Slurred speech or difficulty understanding speech
  • Dizziness, unsteadiness, or a lack of coordination
  • A severe headache that appears out of nowhere with no known cause

If any of these symptoms are present, even if they go away, call your health care provider as soon as possible.

“A stroke can be treated if caught quickly. Getting treatment at the hospital increases the doctors’ chances of minimising or even reversing the long-term effects of your stroke,” says Hewlett.

Hewlett adds that anyone with risk factors for a stroke, such as diabetes, a history of smoking, obesity, heart arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, should take extra precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19 and complications from the disease. 

According to WHO, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19.

  • Maintain a safe distance: Stay at least 1 metre away from others, even if they don’t appear to be sick because the virus can infect people who don’t show any symptoms.
  • Wear a mask: If you can’t physically distance yourself or if you’re indoors, wear a well-fitting three-layer mask. Before putting on or removing a mask, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Avoid crowded areas, indoor locations with poor ventilation, and prolonged contact with others. Spend more time outside than you do inside.
  • Proper ventilation is necessary: When you’re inside, open the windows to let in more fresh air.
  • Avoid touching surfaces that have been touched by people infected with COVID-19, especially in public places or health facilities. Using standard disinfectants, clean surfaces on a regular basis.
  • Hands should be washed frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Carry an alcohol-based rub with you and use it frequently if you can.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a bent elbow or a tissue and dispose of used tissues immediately in a closed bin. After that, wash your hands or rub your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Get vaccinated: Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. Vaccination advice and recommendations should be followed according to local guidelines.

At this time, Affinity Health is supporting all its members during the outbreak period through the Affinity Health Coronavirus Disaster Fund, the proceeds of which will be made available to members in support of public health initiatives aimed at containing and mitigating the spread of the disease.8

Notwithstanding the stated benefits in place, the proceeds of the fund will be utilised to cover Affinity Health members for a defined list of medical procedures and medication during this time.

For more visit: www.affinityhealth.co.za