Friday, February 26, 2010

Could music help regain post-stroke speech?

Singing therapy helps stroke patients regain language:
"Music, and music-making, is really a very special form of a tool or an intervention that can be used to treat neurological disorders, said Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology at Beth Israel and Harvard University. "There's rarely any other activity that could really activate or engage this many regions of the brain that is experienced as being a joyous activity."

There are between 750,000 and 800,000 strokes per year in the United States, and about 200,000 of them result in a kind of language disorder called aphasia, he said. About one-third of those patients have aphasia so severe that they become non-fluent, meaning about 60,000 to 70,000 patients per year could benefit from the music therapy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

'The Lord is my strength'

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
       my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
       My heart leaps for joy
       and I will give thanks to him in song.

There's physical strength - important. Then there's strength of faith in God - even more important.

A stroke can weaken muscles, no doubt. In this Lenten season, take some time to take your strength of faith to a higher level. Read his word. Pray. If you are able, attend church services - and if you don't have a church home, it's a perfect time to find one.

A good church home if you happen to live in or around Columbia, Mo. - Community United Methodist Church.

Lent ends not on the day that Jesus died on the cross, but with his resurrection. Talk about strength!

God, through health professionals, can often help with physical strength in stroke recovery. One recent study adds to the discussion:
There is some controversy surrounding strength training in stroke patients, as some rehabilitation groups feel that strengthening stroke-weakened muscles will also increase spasticity and pain. But that's not what Dr. Janice J. Eng and Dr. Jocelyn E. Harris, of University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, found.

They pooled results from 13 studies that recorded how strength training exercises, versus no strengthening intervention, affected overall arm strength and function in 517 stroke patients with mild to moderately impaired movement of the upper limbs.

On average, strength training lasted for about one hour on 2 to 3 days a week for 4 weeks, although some of the training periods extended as long as 19 weeks. Most interventions used small weights, resistance bands, and gym-type pulley weights to build muscle.

The combined results suggest, "strengthening does not increase spasticity on a permanent basis," Eng told Reuters Health in an email. Rather, strengthening may actually reduce muscle spasticity, she added.
 (Image from Printables 4 Scrapbooking)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Strength with God - 13.1 miles

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

If you've been to this blog before, you know that I am an avid distance runner. Not speedy, just avid.

Running in the cold weather of January and February 2010 have been challenging. Lots of time running indoors and when outside, often bitter cold. Still, I'm convinced that running before my stroke helped me survive the ordeal, and good exercise could do the same for others. Even better, good exercise, plus other stroke prevention measures, can help someone avoid a stroke.
So I just sent in my signup for one of my favorite events - the Sedalia Half-Marathon, set for March 20. It's not a huge event but set in a very rural, friendly setting. I've done it twice before, each time praising God for the simple gift of running.

Paul struggled mightily in his day - but that same God gave him the strength to carry on. When you get weary, think about Paul's words. Strength can come in a physical sense, but even more importantly, it can come in the sense of faith - where real strength lies.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

God loves you - with love that cannot be separated

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ever had trying times? If you're reading this as a stroke survivor or a caregiver, the answer is likely a resounding yes. Even if you haven't had that experience, the human condition dictates that we will face some hardship. In this world, it's unavoidable.

Paul's great, comforting words here, though, can remind you, even in your hours of suffering, that God loves you. A speaker I recently heard phrased it like this: "God desperately loves you."

Paul had his own difficulties - just read Acts starting at Chapter 9 sometime if you're unfamiliar - but had the courage to write these words.

When you need some words of prayer and strength, remember these words of Paul. And remember, too, that God desperately loves you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On this Ash Wednesday, prayers for stroke survivors...

A snippet from from Beliefnet's Prayer Library
Remove the sudden fear that befalls them.
Endow them with courage in the struggle
to recover what has been lost.
As Lent begins, a time to meditate the suffering and death of Jesus, we can pray, too, for others suffering.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Having some chocolate today?

A St. Valentine Day's Special for stroke prevention (maybe):

Chocolate lovers healthy heart: less likely to suffer from stroke, study reports:

People who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who ate no chocolate, according to a research analysis released at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting Thursday.

The research merely shows an association, of course, so it is far from conclusive. And cardiologists regard the findings with skepticism.

Not that this one study brings any absolute conclusion, as some quoted in the article note, but one more reason to enjoy some chocolate. But keeping in other recent posts about stroke prevention, just in moderation, please.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

After spotting signs: It's about time

Now you know the signs - face, arms (or legs) and speech.

And please remember - don't wait for all of those signs. One is enough to follow the next important word:

Time. If you even think someone might be having a stroke, it's crucial to get help now. No waiting to see if things will get better on their own. No calling a well-intentioned friend or neighbor for advice. No amateur diagnosing. One call to make: 911.

Wise words from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:

Stroke is a medical emergency. Every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage. Immediate treatment can save people's lives and enhance their chances for successful recovery.

Ischemic strokes, the most common type of strokes, can be treated with a drug called t-PA, that dissolves blood clots obstructing blood flow to the brain. The window of opportunity to start treating stroke patients is three hours, but to be evaluated and receive treatment, patients need to get to the hospital within 60 minutes.
(Image from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Spotting signs: Speech

Ever find yourself speechless?

If you've had a stroke, the answer might be yes. It certainly was my case almost a dozen years ago. I couldn't utter a word or sound.

In other cases, speech might be slurred; words might be spoken in the wrong order; speech might be jumbled or make no sense; or the incorrect words might be used. In each case, it's a warning sign for a stroke.

I eventually came out of it - after I received a dose of tPA (tissue plasminogen activator, words began to form. Of course, they made no sense much of the time but slowly, after weeks of speech therapy, speech came back, although even after all these years, I still feel that my speech stumbles too often.

But I digress. What we're talking about here are the important seconds and minutes immediately after a stroke occurs. And as this blog has stressed before, one symptom is enough to immediately get someone to a hospital, ideally a stroke center.

Do it, and you will increase your chances of hearing his or her voice again. Or perhaps, even your own.

(Photo from the blog GovGab)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Spotting signs: Arm or leg

When my stroke occurred almost a dozen years ago, one of the clearest signs was the fact that I could no longer move my right arm or leg.

Both felt as if those limbs were dead - could not move, could not feel. One now-comical moment was when the ambulance crew wanted my driver's license ID or insurance card - something in my wallet. I could not even begin to fish it out.

A more medical explanation of this stroke symptom, from the Australia's Brain Foundation:

Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, often one side of the body.
  • A lack of muscle strength in any group of muscles, most commonly those on the face, hand, arm and leg on one side (called hemiparesis). At least half of patients suffer some form of hemiparesis, some with a mild form that involves difficulty in controlling movement, rather than weakness.
  • A loss of sensation or feeling in any part of the body. Numbness of the skin of the face, hand, arm, and leg on one side (hemiananaesthia) is most common.
Sometimes, I call my right arm as my "magic" arm - shortly after medical professionals gave me a dose of tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, the arm (and leg) moved. From a dead-like feeling to new life.

Reminds me of some words of Paul:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Spotting signs: Face

A quick glance can often catch a stroke symptom: one of the face might droop, sag or otherwise not look like the other.

From the Web site eHow:

Look at the face and ask the person to smile. Determine if the smile is crooked or if one side of the face appears to be paralysis or stiff. If the face does show a marked difference between the two sides, a stroke may be in progress. Call an ambulance and get the person to the hospital immediately.

It's good to check someone for all symptoms if you see just one, but just one is enough to get help right away. Not all symptoms show up in every person who is having a stroke.

(Image from Camden Council)