Thursday, September 27, 2012

Diet part 2: Children's high blood pressure?

We've all heard about salt - as in, people in the United States generally consume too much of it. That, in turn, can cause raise blood pressure. That, in turn, becomes the biggest stroke risk factor.

Typically, we're talking adults. But now, new research indicates, too much salt spells health trouble for kids too:
Most adults consume too much sodium and that can have serious health implications. Too much salt in a person's diet can raise your blood pressure; high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
In this new study, published ... in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that if a child is overweight and eats as much salt as an adult, the risk for high blood pressure goes up dramatically.
Health experts recommend that most people eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day, the equivalent of 1 teaspoon. But children and adults alike are consuming, on average, about 3,400 milligrams daily, according to the study.
Can't start too young in stroke prevention!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Diet part 1: Omega-3 questioned

Diet seems to be making news lately. So for the next few days, I'll link to some stories about diet and stroke prevention.

First one up - Omega-3 fatty acids don't reduce stroke:
"Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or guidelines supporting dietary omega-3," said Evangelos Rizos, chief author of the study.
After examining 20 studies comprising a total of 68,680 randomized patients, the researchers said there were 7,044 deaths, 3,993 cardiac deaths, 1,150 sudden deaths, 1,837 heart attacks, and 1,490 strokes.
An analysis of those figures indicated no "statistically significant" association with all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack, and stroke when all supplement studies were considered.
Click on the link above to read some of the past research related to omega-3 fatty acids. Time to stop taking the fish oil pills or similar? If a health professional told you to take it, check first.

(Image from National Institutes of Health)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More good news for moderation

If you've read this blog before, you know I'm a moderation fan.

Now, more authoritative words to give pause from recent news - Heavy drinkers at greater risk for stroke:
“The study does add to our knowledge that excessive drinking is bad for our health in a variety of ways, including increased risk of bleeding into the brain,” says Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH. He is a heart doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
Still, the study is small, and larger ones will be needed before telling people not to drink past a certain level.
Heavy drinkers may be more likely to have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke. “If someone enjoys drinking, I don’t discourage them, but I will caution them even more so after this study to make sure that the amount is considered moderate,” Bhatt says.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

'My help comes from the Lord'

I lift up my eyes to the mountains —
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
Need help?

Or rather: Who doesn't need help? Sometime, somewhere, somehow.

Personally, I need all the help I can get, every day. The struggles might change - health, family, work, even just getting from one place to another.

Have you ever had a struggle, seeking help? When I had my stroke, God helped me. During my recovery, my help came from the Lord. Every day, that help continues.

When you get help from people, is it always the help you thought you needed? I'm guessing the answer is no. Same is true here - God is indeed where your help comes from. Often delivered by humans. And God gives you the help he knows you need - just lift up your eyes to the mountains. Trust and accept that help.

(Photo from the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism; text added by author)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Young people have strokes, too

Mine happened at the ripe old age of 39. Way too young? No. It does happen. And, sadly, for people who are as "young" as I were, strokes too often can be misdiagnosed and therefore not treated properly.

Check out this article titled Too young to have a stroke? Think again:
Although a vast majority of strokes occur in people over age 65 (the risk is 30 to 50 per 1,000 in this age group), 10 percent to 15 percent affect people age 45 and younger (a risk of 1 in 1,000). A study by doctors at the Wayne State University-Detroit Medical Center Stroke Program found that among 57 young stroke victims, one in seven were given a misdiagnosis of vertigo, migraine, alcohol intoxication, seizure, inner ear disorder or other problems — and sent home without proper treatment.
“Although young stroke victims benefit the most from early treatment, it must be administered within four and a half hours,” said Dr. Seemant Chaturvedi, a neurologist at Wayne State who directs the program and led the study. “After 48 to 72 hours, there are no major interventions available to improve stroke outcome.”
“Symptoms that appear suddenly, even if they seem trivial, warrant a meticulous work-up,” he added.
Stroke recognition needs improvement - even and especially among trained health professionals. It's important to remember: Young people can have strokes, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Smoking: Post-stroke death risk

If you've read this blog at all, chance are you know how I feel about smoking. It's deadly.

Now, it seems that after a stroke, stopping smoking can be an effective "medication." This article talks about  how smoking after a stroke triples the risk of death within a year:
After adjusting for a number of other factors, the researchers concluded that patients who resumed smoking were three times more likely to die than those who didn't begin smoking again.
The study was presented Tuesday at the European Society of Cardiology annual meeting in Munich.
"It is well established that smoking increases the risk of having a stroke," study author Furio Colivicchi, from San Filippo Neri Hospital in Rome, said in a society news release. "Quitting smoking after an acute ischemic stroke may be more effective than any medication in reducing the risk of further adverse events. However, on the other hand, our study shows that stroke patients resuming active smoking after leaving the hospital can raise their risk of dying by as much as threefold."
(Photo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Blood pressure problems

High blood pressure is a leading cause of strokes. If you don't know your typical blood pressure, you should. Recent news from MedPage Today highlighted that problem, saying that's uncontrolled blood pressure BP is a major problem in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
On a conference call with reporters, CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said that hypertension -- which he called public health enemy number two behind tobacco use -- accounts for $131 billion in healthcare costs each year and contributes to about 1,000 deaths a day.
"We have to roll up our sleeves and make blood pressure control a priority every day with every patient at every doctor's visit," he said.
Blood pressure control is a priority of the federal government's Million Hearts initiative, which has the goal of preventing one million hearts attacks and strokes by 2017. Part of the effort calls for increasing the number of people whose hypertension is under control by 10 million.
That comes a few days after another story about recent research about black stroke patients have blood pressure troubles:
Blood pressure control is poor following an intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), particularly among black patients longer term, researchers found.
Fewer than 20% of black and white patients who suffered an ICH achieved a normal blood pressure (less than 120 mm Hg/80 mm Hg) at 30 days and 1 year after the event, according to Darin Zahuranec, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.
Although at 30 days there was no racial difference in the percentage of patients considered hypertensive, at 1 year, black patients were more likely to meet ... criteria for Stage 1 or 2 hypertension ..., the researchers reported online in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
So please - know about your own blood pressure. And if called for, act.

(Photo from CDC)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Chocolate news?

Last week, we saw a spate of stories such as:

Stroke prevention: More sweet news for chocolate lovers:
Researchers followed more than 37,000 men for more than 10 years, and found that those who ate the most chocolate had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than those who never ate chocolate.
Flavonoids in chocolate have previously been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and better mental performance. It's thought they may protect against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory factors, or by reducing cholesterol.
But neurologists aren't sending patients to the candy store based on this new report.
"You have to be very careful with these types of observational studies," said Dr. Richard Libman, vice chair of neurology at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, N.Y.
Yes, be careful. You see too many stories about the health "benefits" of chocolate or coffee because, like those two popular products, the stories are hard to resist. More headlines:

Chocolate each day may keep strokes away

Chocolate: A sweet method for stroke prevention in men?

Chocolate may help men dodge strokes, too

As cute as some of these headlines may be, the doctor quoted above is right: Be careful. Yes, chocolate tastes great. But don't treat it like a magic pill.

(Photo from U.S. Food and Drug Administration)