Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aphasia: A struggle for words

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made news not long ago by sitting through an interview about her lengthy struggle with brain injury after a shooting that nearly killed her. She clearly struggles with words - a problem called aphasia.

Many stroke survivors struggle with aphasia, too. While the cause of Giffords' aphasia is different than mine, I certainly feel for her as she faces this communication challenge. As a newspaper reporter at the time, I was concerned that my language problems would endanger my livelihood. I'm sure that as a public official who runs for office every two years, she has some of the same concerns. Words are powerful tools for political candidates.

Her first television interview occurred not long ago on ABC News.

Aphasia is a silent-like problem - people who have it have trouble talking about it. I know that at one time, I had trouble getting words out. But the word "aphasia" is a word that needs to become more known.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One more reason for dental cleanings: Potential stroke prevention

More and more, it's clear that oral health is important to overall health. A recent article discusses how professional dental cleanings may reduce risk of heart attack, stroke:
The study included more than 51,000 adults who had received at least one full or partial tooth scaling and a similar number of people matched with gender and health conditions who had no tooth scaling. None of the participants had a history of heart attack or stroke at the beginning of the study.

The study didn’t adjust for heart attack and stroke risk factors — such as weight, smoking and race — that weren’t included in the Taiwan National Health insurance data base, the source of the information used in the analysis.

“Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year,” said Emily (Zu-Yin) Chen, M.D., cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan.

Professional tooth scaling appears to reduce inflammation-causing bacterial growth that can lead to heart disease or stroke, she said.
(Image from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Important: Even mini-stroke prevention

A somber story from USA Today and reported elsewhere: 'Mini-strokes' can shorten life expectancy.
The study calculated life expectancy by comparing mortality rates among people who had TIAs with other people of the same age and sex. Life expectancy declined steadily each year. After nine years, almost half of the TIA patients had died — 20% more than in the general population, according to the study of 22,000 people published Thursday in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

While having a TIA didn't substantially increase the risk of death in people younger than age 50, the attacks did increase mortality for those older than age 65. About 5 million Americans have had a TIA, according to the heart association.

TIAs are "very bad harbingers," says Nehal Mehta of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the new study. Up to 10% of TIA patients have a major stroke within 48 hours, the American Heart Association says.
This is not a scare tactic, but a reminder that stroke prevention is clearly important, especially those people older than 65.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Appropriate blood thinner use is on the rise

From the Good News Department, via Reuters Health,  more stroke patients get clot-busting drugs:
As many as 95 percent of stroke patients with atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disturbance, got blood thinners in 2010, researchers found. That's up from 88 percent in 2003.

The findings are based on nearly 1,400 U.S. hospitals in the "Get With The Guidelines -- Stroke" program, created by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association to make sure doctors are following up-to-date practices.

"Hospitals participating in this program improved their ability to deliver appropriate stroke care," said lead researcher Dr. William Lewis, a heart specialist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

About 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, according to the American Heart Association.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Stroke and memory: Connected?

An interesting article about the possible connection of stroke risk and predicting memory problems. Some details about the research on how stroke risk profile may also predict odds of memory problems
"Overall, it appears that the total Stroke Risk Profile score, while initially created to predict stroke, is also useful in determining the risk of cognitive problems," study researcher Frederick Unverzagt, PhD, says in a news release. He is a professor of psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

 After taking into account complicating factors, getting older and having thickened heart muscle were both independently linked with future memory problems. High systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) also appeared to raise a person's odds of memory decline, even in the absence of heart muscle thickening.

“Our findings suggest that elevated blood pressure and thickening of the heart muscle may provide a simple way for doctors to identify people at risk for memory and thinking problems,” Unverzagt said.
 You can't change every potential stroke risk factor, but some - blood pressure, as cited above, for example - can be addressed through exercise, diet or medication. Now, it seems, you might be able to steer away from memory problems, too.

(Photo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

'Grant me a willing spirit'

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
David was in trouble and troubled when he made this plea to God.

While our own troubles and travails might be different than David's, we, too, can find joy of salvation in one who can sustain us. God can help us find that willing spirit, that willingness to seek out a restoration, the prayers to sustain us.

Does this mean all troubles will cease? No, David still had his challenges. So do we. But God can sustain us through our own challenges.