Brain stroke is the third largest killer in India after heart attack and cancer. And on World Stroke Day Thursday, experts say that awareness and immediate medical help can save the life of a person suffering a stroke.

A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which was released in June, says that the incidence of stroke in India is around 130 per 100,000 people every year. It further says that about 20 percent of heart patients are susceptible to it.

P.N. Renjen, a senior consultant of neurology at the Apollo hospital, said that stroke is the most common cause of disability with more than 70 percent of stroke survivors remaining vocationally impaired and more than 30 percent requiring assistance with activities for daily living.

“Studies show that on an average, a person waits for 13 hours after experiencing the first symptoms of stroke before seeking medical care. Forty two percent patients wait for as long as 24 hours,” said Renjen, who is also associated with a health NGO, Subhadra Nambudiri Foundation (SNF). “Therefore, awareness on the issue is a must because it is critical to recognise the symptoms of stroke and seek immediate emergency attention,” he added.

Taking it forward from here, Mr. Renjen said that SNF will organise a National Stroke Awareness Day, on December 18th, followed by a National Stroke Awareness Month in July next year.

A brain stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts, causing the brain to starve.

If deprived of oxygen for even a short period of time, the brain cells begin to die. Once this happens, the part of the body controlled by that section of the brain is affected, impairing language, motor skills or vision or causing paralysis.

“Compared to heart attack, awareness about brain stroke, which is even more debilitating, is very limited. Therefore awareness is a must to improve the scenario,” Mr. Renjen added.