Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Too many heart, stroke patients keeping bad habits

A bit of a sad note - too many heart, stroke patients keeping bad habits:
Many patients suffering from coronary heart disease or stroke are unlikely to adopt healthier lifestyles, says to a new study led by a McMaster University researcher.
In fact, the study found more than 14 per cent of patients failed to adopt any healthy habits at all.
“We know that people after a heart attack or stroke, if they exercise regularly or they eat a healthy diet and they quit smoking, the risk of having a second event is much reduced,” said McMaster cardiologist Dr. Koon Teo. “Therefore it is just as important to adopt lifestyle changes as it is to take medication.”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Post-stroke communication issues

My stroke happened on my left side, affecting speech and the right side of my body - couldn't talk, couldn't walk, couldn't use my right hand.

The physical effects went away relatively quickly. Speech - spoken, written and read - took a little longer and in my way of thinking, still not quite as good as it used to be. But that's just an opinion.

But those early days included some serious frustration as I tried re-learn coherent speech and re-learn how to write (critical skill for a reporter). So recent news about why some stroke survivors struggle with communication really hit home with me. About a third of stroke patients will be affected by aphasia:
A shift of language function to the right side of the brain hampers some stroke survivors from recovering their ability to read, write and to say what they mean, a new study indicates.
The inability to do these things is called aphasia, and is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language. ...
"Overall, approximately 30 percent of patients with stroke suffer from various types of aphasia, with this deficit most common in stroke with left middle cerebral artery territory damage," lead investigator Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski, of the departments of neurology at the University of Alabama and University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, said in a journal news release.
As a previous post noted, aphasia does not mean intelligence is affected. It does not mean that the person is confused. Important - for the patient and those around him or her - to remember.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Remember stroke prevention - even for the young

One more reason to reduce stroke risks. The story is about as stroke risk rises among younger adults, so does early death:
New data show that younger stroke survivors are at great risk of premature death. Within two decades, 1 in 5 stroke survivors will die, according to a study in the March 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The death rate is even higher among those with the most common kind of stroke, caused by a blood clot in the brain.
Dr. Frank-Erik de Leeuw of Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands, who led the study, says the results surprised the research team.
"We had the impression that [younger stroke survivors] were doing quite well," de Leeuw tells Shots. "But now that we have followed all of them — and also the patients who didn't show up in our outpatient clinic anymore — it turns out that their prognosis was poor. To me, it was a true surprise."
This isn't intended to scare people needlessly. It is yet another wakeup call for stroke prevention by addressing stroke risk factors. I'm closing in on 15 years after my stroke at the "young" age of 39. This story adds more motivation to watch my own health.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dietary fiber could reduce stroke risk

Eating right benefits everyone. Recently, research made news about how dietary fiber can reduce stroke risk:
Each additional 7 g of daily dietary fiber intake was associated with a significant 7% lower risk of hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke combined, Diane Threapleton, MSc, of the University of Leeds, England, and colleagues reported online in Stroke.
"Our study supports current guidelines to increase fiber consumption," the researchers concluded, although they noted that too little data were available to narrow down what sources or types of fiber were most protective.
So - remember the fiber. Good for you in surprising ways!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Time is brain - mantra to remember

Yes, time is brain. A recent public radio report on efforts to combat North Carolina's high stroke rate included a response about what to do while a stroke is occurring. The quote is from the program director with the North Carolina Stroke Association, Margaret Rudisill:
"Time is brain, that’s our mantra. If they sit and wait until tomorrow to see if they’re going to get better, it’s too late. We just had one this week that got here in the time frame, they were totally paralyzed on one side and couldn’t speak, we gave them the medicine and that person is walking out of the hospital today two days later after experiencing that huge stroke.”
Well said. Review the stroke signs, and if you see even one, get help fast!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Green tea, coffee may help lower stroke risk

You've likely seen stories on the benefits (or downside) of coffee. Now, the American Heart Association is saying that green tea, coffee may help lower stroke risk:
Green tea and coffee may help lower your risk of having a stroke, especially when both are a regular part of your diet, according to research published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
“This is the first large-scale study to examine the combined effects of both green tea and coffee on stroke risks,” said Yoshihiro Kokubo, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.H.A., F.A.C.C., F.E.S.C., lead author of the study at Japan’s National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center. “You may make a small but positive lifestyle change to help lower the risk of stroke by adding daily green tea to your diet.”
I enjoy both of these drinks just for taste - now perhaps one more reason.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Stroke centers more likely to treat

Too few stroke patients receive the only clot-busting drug approved for treatment. While not every person is a candidate for tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the drug is still under-used.

To get a better chance of proper treatment for a stroke, it's a good idea to know your local stroke centers (click here to find yours). Researchers have found that certified stroke centers use more clot busters:
After accounting for year, age, sex, race, insurance, income, comorbidities, mortality risk, and various hospital characteristics, certification as a primary stroke center remained a significant predictor of tPA use (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.61 to 2.16), the researchers reported online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
"That's important because still only a minority of stroke patients get [IV tPA] and it's still the only approved treatment for stroke," commented James Grotta, MD, chairman of neurology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, in an interview.
Yes, it's important - perhaps one of the most important things of a loved one's life, or even your own.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Study: Whole world uses too much salt

I admit it: I like salt. But that being said, I try not to consume too much of it, especially after reading that a recent study finds the whole world uses too much salt:
Salt intake worldwide is at least twice what it should be, with a big impact on global health, researchers found.
Daily sodium intake averaged 3,950 mg in 2010, according to an analysis covering nearly all of the world's population by Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, MPH, of Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues.
The recommended daily intake is 2,000 mg by World Health Organization standards and 1,500 mg by American Heart Association guidelines.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Stroke effects can last for years

I had a different type of stroke (blood clot kind) than those in this recent study, but by my own experience, the effects can last and fade away, even a decade after a stroke.

With certain strokes, effects can persist a decade later:
The study authors said people who survive a subarachnoid hemorrhage are at greater risk for lower quality of life and more health problems in addition to physical disability and depression.
"The implications for health care from our study are that aneurysmal [subarachnoid hemorrhage] patients need to be followed up and that support needs to be provided long term after the onset," the researchers said in the news release.
To this day, I feel like my speech is affected, but I also feel like that I can continue to make progress, even 15 (almost) years later.