Healthy circulation can prevent stroke
In 2002, an estimated 57 million people died worldwide. As the number two cause of death followed by cardiovascular disease, 5.5 million people died of stroke or another form of cerebrovascular diseases (WHO, 2002).
In some Korean hospitals, almost 40% of in-patients are stroke patients. In Korea, between the years of 2000 to 2010, the number one cause of death was cancer followed by cerebrovascular diseases (Statistics Korea). The number of death by cerebrovascular diseases has decreased by 2010 from a decade earlier; in year 2000, it was 785.3 out of every 100,000 deaths in a year whereas in 2010, it came down to 409.4 in every 100,000 deaths. Still, the number is hard to ignore.
Stroke in Korean is called “joong poong,” it means “attack by the wind.” The name gives away a hint; the primary cause of stroke in Korean medicine is the wind; that which by nature is dynamic and ever-changing.
Patients who visit the out-patient centers come worried of their awkward symptoms, which is usually one-sided involuntry twitching around their eyes and lips.
The number one cause of a stroke, the wind, exhibits its character, speed and rapid change, to its patients, however, some scholars of the past offer differing views. For instance, Lee Dong-won believed that all aliments can be treated by tonifying the middle visceral cavity (stomach); he proposed that a stroke is caused by already existing qi of a person and not by the pathogenic wind factor. Other causes mentions in the “The Nei Jing,” the earliest book on Chinese medical theory compiled around 100 B.C., are damp, fire, or weakness of blood and qi.
A stroke is characterized by sudden syncope with coma, unconsciousness accompanied by dry mouth, hemiplegia and dysphasia. It has predisposing causes as deficiency of blood and qi, imbalance of yin and yang or the heart, liver and kidney in combination with grief and rage, or immoderate drinking and overeating. Sudden hyperactivity of the liver-yang may stir it.
Encyclopedia defines cerebrovascular diseases as a group of brain dysfunctions related to disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain. The most common forms of cerebrovascular disease are cerebral thrombosis (40 percent of cases) and cerebral embolism (30 percent), followed by cerebral hemorrhage (20 percent) (Henry S 1998).
As many studies have supported, the major risk factors of stroke include hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Hypertension damages the blood vessel lining and sustained hypertension permanently changes the architecture of the blood vessels making them narrow and stiff. A sudden rise in blood pressure during the daytime can cause tearing of the blood vessels resulting in intracranial hemorrhage. Conversely, a decrease in blood pressure during sleep can then lead to a marked reduction in blood flow in the narrowed blood vessels causing ischemic stroke. The results of cerebrovascular disease can include a stroke or occasional hemorrhagic stroke.
According to “Donguibogam,” a medical encyclopedia compiled during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), the predisposing symptoms before the attack of the wind are numbness and stiffness of the second and middle finger, weakness of extremities, or minor pulling of ligaments.
Ancestors were wise enough to prevent stroke by sensing the predisposing signs and symptoms and preventing the forthcoming. According to “Donguibogam,” symptoms such as weakened left half of the body meant blood deficiency whereas the weakness of the right half meant qi deficiency. Therefore, a stroke was prevented accordingly. One of the best preventative methods of stroke in Korean traditional medicine is moxibustion because of its effectiveness in blood circulation.
But remember, the best way to prevent stroke is living a happy live and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The writer practices traditional Korean medicine at Nasaret Oriental Medical Hospital in Incheon.