To mark World Stroke Day on 29 October, the Ministry of Health is providing support for awareness-raising campaigns on the subject. The aim is to inform the general public about how to prevent risk factors, but also about the importance and urgency of providing immediate care for victims as soon as the first symptoms appear (mental confusion, speech problems, difficulty understanding, dizziness, paresis or paralysis of a part of the body or a limb).
A stroke, also known as a cerebral attack, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot, or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures.
Acting on risk factors
Stroke can be caused by a number of factors, and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke. Over time, the excessive pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the blood vessels damages them and causes them to rupture. On average, high blood pressure contributes 40% to the risk of having a stroke. In Luxembourg, according to the latest figures for 2019, 15% of the population claim to have high blood pressure, and this figure increases with age; 29% of people aged 55 and over claim to have suffered from high blood pressure in the last 12 months.
There are a number of things that can be done on a daily basis to prevent hypertension, such as limiting weight gain, having a balanced diet, moderating salt and alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking, reducing stress and taking regular exercise. All these measures can be consulted on the hypertension section of sante.lu.
It is now possible to prevent, treat and manage strokes by acting on the main risk factors, such as high blood pressure, but also diabetes, obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
A quick and easy test, developed by the Health Department and the Blëtz association, is available online at bletz.lu.
What to do in the event of a stroke
A large number of strokes could be prevented by early treatment, which is why it is so important to recognise the symptoms early and call an ambulance immediately. As soon as someone calls 112 about a stroke, the hospital is immediately alerted so that staff and equipment are ready when the victim arrives.
When someone has a stroke, every second that passes is crucial. The Ministry of Health strongly encourages people to adopt the "FAST" reflexes:
- F: Face: Ask the patient to smile. Is the smile asymmetrical?
- A: Arms: Ask the patient to lift both arms. Does one arm fall?
- S: Speech: Ask the patient to speak or repeat a simple sentence. Does he have difficulty speaking or articulating?
- T: Time: If the patient shows any of these signs, call 112 immediately!
"By acting quickly, we can help people who have suffered a stroke, and we must pay close attention to every warning sign," says Minister of Health Paulette Lenert.
If not treated very quickly, the damage caused by a stroke can become irreversible.
Stroke in figures
Diseases of the circulatory system are the leading cause of death in Luxembourg, as in all European Union countries. According to provisional figures for 2022, cerebrovascular disease was the cause of 223 deaths (55% of which were women), accounting for 5.4% of all deaths. Cerebrovascular disease is the leading cause of acquired disability in Luxembourg.
Awareness-raising activities are planned throughout the week leading up to World Stroke Day, organised by the Blëtz association, which looks after stroke victims in Luxembourg, and supported by the Ministry of Health.
On Sunday 22 October, a conference on the theme of stroke will be held at the Château de Bettembourg from 4pm to 7pm.
Free blood pressure tests will be available in various hospitals: on 23 October at the Rehazenter, on 24 October at the Centre hospitalier du Nord, on 25 October at the Robert Schuman Hospitals, on 26 October at the Centre hospitalier Emile Mayrisch and on 27 October at the Centre hospitalier du Luxembourg. Many pharmacies throughout the country will also be offering free blood pressure tests on their premises. A list of these pharmacies is available on sante.lu.
Finally, the Blëtz association's traditional sale of éclairs will take place in various bakeries and patisseries, the list of participating outlets of which can also be consulted on sante.lu.
If you have any questions, we recommend that you consult your GP, and for more information on stroke, you can also contact the Blëtz association, which helps stroke victims in Luxembourg: bletz.lu.
Press release by the Ministry of Health