BEIJING, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- China has built a solid nationwide network of hospitals and clinics for stroke treatment and prevention, a leading health expert said.
The network is composed of 327 hospitals with enhanced stroke treatment abilities, 379 medical centers specializing in strokes, more than 1,000 county- and district-level hospitals and over 3,000 community clinics, said Wang Longde, president emeritus of the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association.
Wang, also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said 78 cities had also released maps of medical institutes capable of performing emergency first-aid treatment for stroke patients.
A total of 997 medical institutes were included in the maps.
Wang said the maps can help people find the nearest hospital to address blood clots once a stroke occurs.
"A minute's delay can cause the death of 1.9 million brain cells," Wang said.
Tuesday marks World Stroke Day. A stroke is caused by the interruption of the blood supply to the brain, usually because a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a clot. This cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, causing damage to the brain tissue, according to the World Health Organization.
Stroke can cause paralysis, language disorders, difficulty in swallowing, cognitive impairment and even death in serious cases.
Peng Bin, head of the neurology department at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said China has the largest number of cerebrovascular disease patients in the world and the incidence rate of stroke is rising, calling for more public attention.
He said the illness is so serious that about 75 percent of the patients are rendered unable to work or even take care of themselves.
But stroke is preventable as it is very much a lifestyle-related illness. Peng advised members of the public to choose a balanced diet, do physical exercise, quit smoking, limit alcohol intake and try to maintain a good mood.
People should also have their blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipid levels checked regularly after reaching middle age.
Wang, also the deputy head of a stroke prevention and control sub-committee under the National Health Commission, said China began a stroke risk surveillance program in 2009, screening about 1 million people over the age of 40 every year.
People with a high risk of stroke were given the option of intervention including carotid endarterectomy (CEA), a surgical operation to remove plaque on the inner walls of the carotid arteries in the neck.
Wang said the number of CEAs performed across the country has shot up from 247 in 2010 to 5,142 in 2018, helping high-risk people avoid strokes.
"China's stroke prevention and control have been very productive," Wang said. "Many people stand to benefit."