Monday, August 31, 2009

'We are God's workmanship'

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I am a very amateur woodworker. All of my workmanship is very, very imperfect.

That being said, even this amateur can make good use of his creations. We hang our coats on one of my creations. A shelf unit hangs in a bathroom. One supports a daughter's TV. Works in progress will hold some wind chimes, serve as a utility room shelf and eventually hold jewelry.

Now, imagine the workmanship of a craftsman who is far from amateur - even perfect. We are the creations of this craftsman. Perfect? Not yet. Like you - everyone - still a work in progress.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Simple test for those with risk

A transient ischemic attack can be a sign for worse to come, and strokes can reoccur. So an interesting story: Ankle test tells heart risk after TIA, stroke:

[A] simple test of blood pressure at the ankle can detect asymptomatic PAD [peripheral arterial disease], giving patients a chance to reduce their risk.

Heart disease risk goes way up in people who have suffered strokes or TIAs. That risk is even greater in people who also have PAD, a sign that plaque is clogging the arteries.

Should everyone rush out and get their blood pressure checked at their ankles? No. However, as the article notes, "But it is advised for people at high risk of PAD." When in doubt, ask your doctor.

(Image from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stroke clot-buster works as well in women as men

Good news that makes sense - the stroke clot-buster works as well in women as men:
Results from some studies have suggested that male stroke victims treated with tPA fare better than women, while others have suggested just the opposite. Until now, no systematic review had been done comparing the results of clot-buster treatment in men and women, according to the report in the medical journal Stroke.

Since January 2002, Dr. Pierre Marino and colleagues from Bichat University Hospital, Paris, have collected data on all stroke patients who were given injections of tPA at their center. In addition to analyzing these data, the team performed a systematic review of other published studies on this topic.

In general, the team found, there was little evidence that gender had any effect.
I was fortunate enough to receive tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). My physical recovery came fairly quickly, followed more slowly by my language-skill recovery. Once you've gone through it, you can see the value of receiving the proper treatment. TPA isn't right for everyone, which is why stroke patients need qualified care.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One part of preventing second strokes

If it happens once, it can happen again.

Most importantly, there are ways to prevent second strokes. One is to reduce the "bad" cholesterol level. There are other elements of prevention. Among them: Watch your blood pressure and weight. Don't smoke. Control alcohol intake. Exercise (check with the doctor first).

High cholesterol-treating statins can help prevent second strokes in some cases:

The 10-year study of nearly 800 people who had strokes found a 35 percent lower incidence of second strokes and a 57 percent lower death rate among those who took statins compared to those who didn't, according to a report in the May 26 issue of Neurology.

Statins include blockbuster medications such as Crestor, Lipitor, Pravachol and Zocor.
Don't assume you suddenly need a statin, but this story is one more argument to keep working with your doctor to monitor your cholesterol and other stroke risks.

(Photo from the National Library of Medicine)

Monday, August 17, 2009

TIA care in the right places does matter

They aren't strokes, exactly, but take a TIA seriously.

A transient ischemic attack "a brief episode of a given neurological abnormality that resolves on its own, and by definition, TIA sufferers recover completely within a few minutes (or a few hours, at the most)," according to the recent article stroke hospitals offer better care for TIA patients.

And not surprisingly, stroke hospitals (those with stroke units) appear to be better than [other] hospitals at doing this. This is probably due to the presence of stroke experts in their facilities, which guarantees that patients with TIAs undergo rapid and thorough testing. This was shown in a recent article in the Medical Journal of Australia.

So be sure you know the TIA symptoms and take them seriously. Don't let anyone you care about - hey, that should be everyone, right? - just shrug it off. TIAs can be signs of a even more serious events to come. If you can, get to a stroke center, as they are called in the U.S. You can find them here if you pick your ZIP Code, with a range of at least 25 miles, choose Type of Service and choose a Certified Program called Stroke (Primary Stroke Center).

Friday, August 14, 2009

'Worth more than many sparrows...'

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Ever have some trying times?

Trick question - of course you have. I remember the days shortly after my stroke in 1998 - struggling with speech, seeking unsuccessfully finding the right words, fighting to read. Trying times indeed.

On my better days during that time, I found these and similar words comforting and helped keep my recovery going. A mantra to remember when times get rough: You will not be forgotten.

(Photo from the National Park Service)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Again, battling stroke myths and misunderstandings

Here's another slant on taking down some misconceptions about strokes and survivors - in an article titled "Ex-scientist's stroke opens minds to recovery."

When Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke in 1996, it didn't just change her life. ...

"I've actually had people write me, 'I'm apologizing to you for how I treated stroke patients,'" says Taylor, 50.

Her experience and book has changed how some health professionals have treated survivors.

Monday, August 10, 2009

'Do what it says'

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
It's a busy world out there - so easy to get wrapped up on TV, telephones, computers, e-mail, text, etc. Much of the time, it seems, all we do is listen (or read, as in Facebook or Twitter).

I love to listen to the word. Often, in my running sessions, I plug in Bible recordings and just listen. It helps the miles disappear. I've gleaned so much understanding from just running along, with only Scripture with me.

So there's a time to listen and read, of course. But as James wrote, don't fool yourself - listening isn't all there is to it. You also must "do."

That's also the hard part. We can become so passive as we read or listen. The challenge to respond - at whatever level our abilities allow - is, to steal a Nike phrase, "just do it."

(Image by glorifing on Photobucket)

Friday, August 07, 2009

No guarantees in this world

In a project to keep dogging stroke myths: Here's a title of a recent article carries some needless baggage: Six ways to get on with stroke prevention and stay stroke-free.

It goes on to say:
[A]lthough stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, only a small percentage of Americans is able to name even a few of the diseases and unhealthy habits that can increase a person's risk of having a stroke. Here you will find six important tips that can help you improve your chances of never suffering a stroke.
While it is true that many people can, in fact, improve changes of never going through a stroke, the title or article might give you the impression that if you follow the rules, you might be "stroke-free."

The world doesn't work quite that easily. Ask me - was 39 years old, good physical condition, marathon finisher, low cholesterol, excellent blood pressure, normal weight, non-smoker, low alcohol intake, eating right, etc. Yet it happened anyway.

The problem an undetected heart defect - which you can't control with diet or other behavior.

So yes, follow this article's advice and follow the six important tips. But still, stay aware of stroke signs - it can still happen to you or a loved one, and you need to know what to do.

That is: Get some help immediately!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another way to look at it

In a continuing effort to make sure people understand the importance of stroke signs and the need to get help, here are five symptoms you need to know to recognize a stroke:

The key is to immediately get to the emergency room for a brain scan to detect which type of stroke has hit. If it's ischemic—caused by a blood clot—the best treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA, and the quicker the treatment, the less the disabling damage. Most hospitals will treat stroke patients with TPA only if the medicine can be injected within three hours of the appearance of symptoms, which is why getting to the hospital is such an urgent matter. A recent study found, however, that TPA can be safe and effective up to 4½ hours after a stroke. Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a bleeding vessel in the brain, involves lowering blood pressure and reducing swelling in the brain.
Again, not every symptom will appear. But if just one shows, you know what to do.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Shedding stroke myths

Lately, I've done a lot of thinking about stroke myths and incorrect assumptions.

This blog touched on those last week, but the topic is too important - life and death important - to leave it alone.

One recent story - Survivors shed stroke myths and issue warnings - is worth reading. It starts with a 22-year-old survivor:
Luckily surviving her stroke, the next year became a battle few people in their 20s endure and next to none expect. Ms [Hana] Ascano began a long road to recovery from trauma to her cerebellum, causing temporary paralysis along the left side of her face and body.

Fighting to smile, sit up and walk again; she endured an arduous journey that she admits was lonely and seemed hopeless at times, but the university student says she is now close to 100 per cent recovered.
So even if someone is young and seemingly healthy, don't ignore stroke symptoms:

To quote the National Stroke Association, those include:
  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body.
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.
It's important, though, NOT assume you'll see ALL the symptoms. For example, mine didn't cause a headache. A friend's stroke didn't cause speech problems. Just one sign is enough to get someone to a hospital immediately.

Not later. Not tomorrow. Don't let them talk you out of it. Don't wait and see if they feel better.

The difference could be death or a lifelong disability.

(Image from CDC)