Friday, June 29, 2012

The 'eyes' might have it...

The story quoted below identifies this as something "may someday" happen, but makes you wonder what else the eyes might someday tell us.

Seems that early research shows that a simple eye test may help detect stroke risk:
A simple eye test may someday offer an effective way to identify patients who are at high risk for stroke, say researchers at the University of Zurich. They showed that a test called ocular pulse amplitude (OPA) can reliably detect carotid artery stenosis (CAS), a condition that clogs or blocks the arteries that feed the front part of the brain. It's a known risk factor for stroke. The OPA test could be performed by ophthalmologists – physicians who treat eye diseases – during routine exams. The study, which is published in the June issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, confirmed that patients who had the lowest OPA scores also had the most seriously blocked arteries.
So - someday, your eye doctor might indirectly save your brain.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Aphasia basics

Traditionally, in the United States, June is, among other things, Aphasia Awareness Month.

And those involved have a lot of work to do to generate awareness. I'd be willing to guess - maybe even a small wager - that most people have no idea what aphasia is.

As someone whose stroke floored me - temporarily - with aphasia, I offer this basic information for you to pass along to people you know:
Aphasia is a disorder caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language. It can make it hard for you to read, write and say what you mean to say. It is most common in adults who have had a stroke. Brain tumors, infections, injuries and dementia can also cause it. The type of problem you have and how bad it is depends on which part of your brain is damaged and how much damage there is.
There are four main types:
  • Expressive aphasia - you know what you want to say, but you have trouble saying or writing what you mean
  • Receptive aphasia - you hear the voice or see the print, but you can't make sense of the words
  • Anomic aphasia - you have trouble using the correct word for objects, places or events
  • Global aphasia - you can't speak, understand speech, read or write
Some people recover from aphasia without treatment. Most, however, need language therapy as soon as possible.
Read the entire article linked above. Lots of other links for good resources about aphasia.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

'He is my refuge and my fortress'

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Ever need shelter?

Life certainly throws a lot bad stuff in our direction. Struggles with health concerns. Hard decisions. Life-altering events.

Note a couple of words in the Psalm quoted:

1. "Dwells." Not passing through God's shelter, but dwelling there. We don't have to rush out and face our struggles alone, then rush back to shelter. No. We face these struggles in God's shelter.

2. "Rest." Dwelling in God's shelter doesn't mean we abandon our duties. We can rest near to God - in his shadow - to regain energy and strength to battle these struggles and storms in our lives.

So stay close. Dwell in his shelter. Rest with God. Let him be your refuge.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What the heck is aphasia?

If you've read this blog much, you'll know. But most people don't know much about aphasia, a language disorder that affects many stroke patients.

June is Aphasia Awareness Month, and my Google alerts found an article with a great point: People with aphasia can struggle to find the right words, use the wrong words, or speak haltingly, or speak very little.

All that being said - and I've been through all of those things myself - aphasia does not remove your intellect. People with aphasia are, by and large, just as intelligent as always. The problem is not intelligent. The problem is language.

I found this article on the National Aphasia Association website - sorry, but the PDF version is the only one I could find. A few sentences:
A National Aphasia Association survey found that because of their difficulty in communicating, over 70% of people with aphasia report that people avoided contact with them and 90 percent felt isolated, left out, ignored and lonely. This isolation, coupled with the fact that intellect remains intact, makes depression another serious result of aphasia.

Try to imagine what your life would be like if you suddenly were not able to communicate any longer. Every aspect of your life would be forever changed. Your role and responsibilities in your family would change. Your relationships with friends and colleagues would change. Completing everyday tasks like making a phone call, driving, shopping, dining out or getting cash at the bank, would become challenging or perhaps impossible without assistance, even though your intellect would remain intact.
Most of my signs of aphasia were effectively treated by speech therapy (an often unheralded but important line of work). It still can emerge during a time of stress or fatigue, which still can be frustrating.

But do know that someone you know with aphasia is still there - intellect and all.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Good news to modest-mile runners!

Without even realizing it, I'm ahead of the curve for runners!

Saw a recent story about how running helps you live longer. No big surprise there.

However, the article went on to say that when you run more than 20 miles a week, the benefit actually declines a bit. Unless I'm ramping up to a half or (maybe again one of these days) full marathon, I hit about 20 miles a week.

And don't get me wrong: High-mileage runners are still miles ahead, so to speak, than couch potatoes, no question. But the article discusses how even people who aren't elite athletes can reduce, among other things, stroke risk:

So read the article about running and mortality benefit:
What doesn't kill you is supposed to make you stronger, an adage that many a long-distance runner has clung to, but intriguing findings from a new study presented last week suggest the mortality benefits of running are best accumulated in shorter distances, specifically at less than 20 miles per week  In fact, at longer distances, the researchers observed a U-shape relationship between all-cause mortality and running, with longer weekly distances trending back in the wrong direction, toward less mortality benefit.
"We were thinking that at some dose of running, things would level off, that we'd see that runners would have a reduction in mortality at certain distances and then it would kind of level off," Dr Carl Lavie (Ochsner Health System, New Orleans, La.), one of the study investigators, told heartwire. "The fact that it reached its plateau at such a low level is surprising, as is the fact that it didn't level off but actually went the other way. We never had a point where runners did worse than nonrunners,"
So, no matter how slow, if you're a runner, get a few miles in this week!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

'... Who takes hold of your right hand ...'

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Since my stroke and recovery, I've always had a soft spot for this verse in Isaiah. "...I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand ... ."

What a message for someone who - even temporarily - loss the use of his right hand! But thinking further, no matter what my weaknesses might be, God is there to grasp me, with support and strength.

God does grasp the hands of stroke survivors - no matter the level of recovery in this world. Let him grasp you. Let him help you. He will lead you with love.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Southern states need stroke prevention priority

Being born a Southerner (now living in the Midwest), it's disheartening to hear about how strokes are more common in Southern states. To quote the article:
States with the highest rates of stroke include South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Nevada.
Those with the lowest rates include New York, Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the New England states.
Older people, American Indians/Alaska Natives, blacks and people with lower levels of education had more strokes than younger people, whites and those with higher levels of education, the researchers found.
The disparities in stroke, a leading cause of long-term disability, are largely due to lifestyle factors including obesity, high blood pressure and smoking, Fang said.
"Southern states have higher rates of obesity, smoking and hypertension, which are all risk factors for stroke," she said.
What is especially said is that many of the risk factors mentioned in the excerpt are preventable or at least (in the case of hypertension) addressable. Stroke prevention has a long way to go in Southern United States. It's past time to start!

Age-adjusted prevalence of stroke among noninstitutionalized adults (18 or older), by state.
(Image from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Powerful personal story

Not long ago, George D. Wolf, a Penn State-Harrisburg professor emeritus, wrote his experiences for the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Penn.

His article, "Stroke: It can happen to you," gives the details of how he didn't call for help until the following day of his stroke - too late. He says it plainly:
Much of my misery could have been avoided if I had known more about strokes. Let’s get the word out.
You should read the whole article. Bottom line: Yes, a stroke can happen to anyone. And yes, know stroke signs and get help immediately even if you have just one. You or someone else might not have all the symptoms.