Monday, November 30, 2009

'My salvation comes from him'

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
What is "rest" for a stroke survivor or caregiver?

I think of it as finding peace, as finding a place without constant turmoil, as finding how life's priorities.

As we begin to celebrate Advent this year, may God help you find your rest.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Good news on the prevention front

The levels of "bad" cholesterol is a known cause of strokes, and controlling those levels is a known way to help stroke prevention.

So good news from a recent study:
The number of adults who had high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol dropped to 21 percent in 2005 to 2006 from 32 percent in 1999 to 2000, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. About 13 percent of those in the study were taking cholesterol-lowering medicines such as Pfizer Inc.’s Lipitor, the top-selling drug in 2008, and Merck & Co.’s Zocor, compared with 8 percent in the earlier period.

The drop in the rates of high levels of LDL cholesterol may be a result of more people taking cholesterol-lowering medicine, eating a better diet and getting more exercise, said the study’s lead author, Elena Kuklina, in a telephone interview today. Even with that improvement, too many people have elevated levels, said Kuklina and other researchers at the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rewiring the post-stroke brain

A summary of a study done in the town where I live. Sometimes, you read about a report that mirrors your own experience. Like those studied in research on pushing the brain to find new pathways, I felt my brain rewiring itself for far longer than six months:
Until recently, scientists believed that, following a stroke, a patient had about six months to regain any lost function. After that, patients would be forced to compensate for the lost function by focusing on their remaining abilities. Although this belief has been refuted, a University of Missouri occupational therapy professor believes that the current health system is still not giving patients enough time to recover and underestimating what the human brain can do given the right conditions.

In a recent article for OT Practice Magazine, Guy McCormack, clinical professor and chair of the occupational therapy and occupational science department at the MU School of Health Professions, argues that health practitioners believe their clients need more time and motivation to reclaim lost functions, such as the use of an arm, hand or leg. With today's therapies, it is possible for patients to regain more function than ever thought possible, McCormack said.

"Patients are able to regain function due to the principle of neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to change, especially when patients continue therapy long after their injuries," McCormack said. "Therapists once believed the brain doesn't develop new neurons; but, now they know neurons change their shape and create new branches to connect with other neurons, rewiring the brain following an injury or trauma."
Sometimes, it's hard for stroke survivors to learn patience - myself included. I felt so much frustration on reading and writing, finding the wrong words when speaking. In particular, volume or tone was wrong, or I would mixup pronouns - calling a guy a "her" or a woman a "him." Weird.

On some days, I could even feel that I my brain had moved up one more notch. One in particular was very close to home. I was in much (St. James United Methodist, in Little Rock) and was during a hymn. I had felt like I could no longer carry a tune. But on that day, suddenly I gained some ground; I could have sworn that I felt it.

So in a house of worship, I lifted up my own little prayer.

Patience is hard sometimes. But this study gives some hope that even months and months post-stroke, rewiring is possible.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More on high blood pressure and strokes

One more Kiwi-related item; it's clear that no matter where you are, know your blood pressure and if needed, act.

High blood pressure rate causes alarm:
The findings did not surprise South Canterbury Stroke Foundation field officer Christine Holling, who said at least five people in South Canterbury had a stroke every week, a third of them potentially avoidable.

"There are 22 a day in New Zealand.

"A third are caused by high blood pressure, which could be avoided if people had their blood pressure checked."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Depression can follow a stroke

Caregivers are important for stroke survivors, especially those who suffer depression post-stroke. According to this recent study, this effects women more than men:
Brittany Poynter, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Toronto looked at 56 studies on stroke and depression comprising more than 75,000 people, about 12,000 of them women. The time between the stroke and onset of depression ranged from less than two weeks to 15 years.

In women, rates of post-stroke depression ranged from about 6 percent to 78 percent, while in men depression rates ranged from 4.7 percent to about 65 percent.

These findings are important, Poynter said, because women who have had a stroke generally do more poorly than men. They tend to have higher rates of disability and longer hospitalization times. The authors say this might be due in part to higher rates of depression. In addition, “women may have less access to care,” Poynter said.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Time = brain

As one more report shows, call 911 at first sign of stroke:
In a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a national registry of patients who suffered a stroke between 2005 and 2007 has found that nearly 40 percent used private transportation to get to a hospital emergency room rather than calling 911.

Bad decision, because as every neurologist will tell you: Time is brain.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ER crowds can keep you waiting

With H1N1 making news, with seasonal flu coming to an ER near you soon, this story about ER crowds and longer waits from ABC News makes sense - unfortunately:
Wait time for the very sickest patients, those would die without being treated promptly (for example, someone whose heart had stopped or who wasn't breathing) was not affected by crowding. But patients who were in the next tier down, for example someone with chest pain or signs of stroke, did have to wait longer in crowded conditions.
In my own experience and observation, people who arrive via ambulance get shorter wait time - even more evidence that if you're wise, you'll call 911 if you or someone near you is showing stroke symptoms. Life, or lifelong disability, could hang in the balance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Perhaps some success in UK stroke awareness

A United Kingdom stroke awareness effort, launched in February, might have shown some success:
Statistics showed there was a 55% rise in the number of calls about possible stroke symptoms made to ambulance trusts in 2008/09.

Stroke is the cause of death for 9% of males and 13% of females in the UK. 150,000 people in the UK suffer from a stroke every year and a quarter occur in people aged under 65.

The FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) campaign was created by doctors to help people recognise key stroke symptoms and allow emergency staff to identify problems quickly.
The quicker the help, quite often, the better the outcome! No matter where you are.

(Photo via flickr)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More from Kiwis about stroke awareness

A Kiwi suffers a stroke every hour
Director of the National Research Centre for Stroke, Applied Neurosciences and Neurorehabilitation at AUT University, Professor Valery Feigin says the summit will provide direction for the future development in management and prevention of stroke in New Zealand.

“Our stroke rates are four times worse than other developed countries with over 32,000 people suffering a stroke each year,” he says, “and every hour someone in New Zealand is struck by a new stroke.”
The numbers may change, depending on the country. But stroke rates, stroke signs and symptoms can't be ignored.

(Image from the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand)

Friday, November 06, 2009

High blood pressure - a killer

More news from New Zealand, a great and friendly country:

Stroke Foundation shocked at numbers with elevated blood pressure:

To mark Stroke Awareness Week, the Stroke Foundation, St John and Lions offered free blood pressure checks on Saturday 12 September at over 100 supermarkets throughout the country. About 12,000 people had their blood pressure checked.

Dr John Fink, Stroke Foundation Medical Advisor, says 46 percent of the blood pressures reported back to the Stroke Foundation were above normal.

"These were people with blood pressures of 140 systolic or higher and 90 diastolic or higher - in many cases, considerably higher. Blood pressure that is consistently above 140 over 90 is considered to be high. Normal blood pressure is around 120 over 80. In general, the lower the better."
(Photo from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sounds like a downer until you think about it

For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you.

At first reading, Peter sounds like he's giving us a reminder of our own mortality. But think further.

Yes, grass and flowers wither - and they must be. Without withering, renewal cannot take place. The glory of renewal would never be known.

God's word is his promise - accept him, and you, too, will see the ultimate renewal in the proper time. And that's a great word.

(Photo from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources)

Monday, November 02, 2009

'A ransom for many'

Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
What better way to describe those people who care for those who lived through a stroke - as they survive, struggle and recover.

God bless the caregivers, the servants - like Christ, they do not come to be served, but serve. Today, pray for a caregiver you know.