Thursday, November 28, 2013

'Give thanks to the Lord'

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Here in the United States, today is Thanksgiving Day.

Today, I am thankful for:
  • Being alive.
  • The notes and feedback from readers of this blog.
  • A church home.
  • The ability to work and exercise.
  • Family and friends.
  • And so much more.
Thankful to ...? Many people deserve thanks. But God is the ultimate source of all the blessings I've received, all the people who have come into my life.

And for that, especially on this day, I give thanks to the Lord.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'Will become perfect'

Last Friday, people in the United States and around the world marked the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of President John Kennedy.

Another great figure died the exact same day - great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.

Recently, I received an email from The Ranch with this great C.S. Lewis quote:
Those who put themselves in His hands will become perfect, as He is perfect - perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beauty, health, and immortality. The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment. How far the change will have gone before death in any particular Christian is uncertain.
As a stroke survivor, I'm damaged goods in this imperfect body. Indeed, you can't find any perfect human being. Not on this side of the great divide. But as Lewis reminded his readers, perfection awaits all who accept it.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Developing new class of blood thinners continue

For a few years, I took warfarin (also known as Coumadin) daily. I had to be careful in diet, in the timing of the medication and getting blood tests monthly to make sure my blood was not too thick, not too thin, but rather, to paraphrase Goldilocks, "just right."

The drug, also famously used as rat poison, has been in use to prevent clot-type strokes for decades. You might have seen the TV commercials lately for new drugs coming on the market to replace warfarin. Now, new blood thinner edoxaban was found safer, as effective as warfarin:
"Personally, I think it will be used. We know this drug is safer than warfarin," said the study's lead investigator, Dr. Robert Giugliano, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
But it will enter a market that already has three other new medicines vying to displace cheap, decades-old warfarin. 
It aims to compete with Xarelto, sold by Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson, and Eliquis sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc., which belong to the same class of drugs as edoxaban, as well as a similar medicine from Boehringer Ingelheim called Pradaxa. ...
"If you look at the four new drugs, they're more similar than different," said Dr. Mark Link, a professor at Tufts University Medical Center in Boston, who was not involved in the trial. "All these drugs are safer than warfarin."
Warfarin, of course, can cause bleeding, bruising and other medical problems. On the downside of the new drugs, costs will be far greater than the cheap generic warfarin. Still, worth discussing with your doctor.

(Photo from the National Library of Medicine)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Men: Walk to reduce your stroke risk

You've seen references to exercise before, but here's more info that to reduce stroke risk, take a hike:

Men who walked eight to 14 hours each week had about a one-third lower risk of stroke compared to men who walked no more than three hours a week or did not walk at all, and the risk was about two-thirds lower for men who walked more than 22 hours a week.
"Compared to walking at a slow pace, the men who walked faster had about a one-third reduction in stroke risk, but this was entirely explained by the fact that they walked further than men who walked slower," Jefferis told MedPage Today. "On balance it seemed that time spent walking, rather than walking pace, was more important in our study."
Walking is the predominant form of physical activity in older adults, and it is important to understand its impact on stroke risk in this population, the researchers wrote.

Walking is cheap exercise and cheap "medication" for stroke prevention. Most people can start at their own pace and time, and slowly improve as ability increases. Of course, it's always advisable to check with a health professional before starting an exercise program.

Not long ago, this blog highlighted a study focusing on women and walking. Now, it's time for men to "take a hike!"

(Photo from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

'Lead me on level ground'

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
This past weekend, I ran 10 miles into and around Branson, Mo. If you've ever been there, you know it's a very hilly place.

As a result, my time was slower than normal, and I had some sore leg muscles! 

Several months before, I fell. Pretty hard. I was running down a sidewalk I've run on numerous times before. A small unlevel spot caught me, and the next thing I knew, I was rolling onto the concrete and grass nearby. Fortunately, I wasn't seriously injured.

In both cases, though, I didn't regret my running at all. Running is my time to reflect, time to challenge myself, time to pray and praise.

Figuratively - if not literally - we've all encountered hills and even small rough spots that become obstacles. While taking on obstacles might strengthen us, our spirits often need some distraction-free level ground when we are ready to connect with God.

Follow him to that level ground.

(Photo midway through a hill I ran in Branson, Mo., from Google Maps)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stroke, tPA and physician decision-making

A brief but thought-provoking article in the Neurology journal spells out recent survey results about the use of tissue plasminogen activator, the clot-busting drug used to treat certain stroke patients.

When is it right, when is it wrong, to apply the medication? Not in the cold scientific sense, but in the practical and ethical sense? If the patient would face devastating effects of the stroke no matter what? If the patient is in the throes of incurable dementia, such as Alzheimer's?

A snippet of the Stroke, tPA and physician decision-making article:
Studies like this one help to highlight and clarify the rationale behind the treatment of acute stroke. They allow us to understand the individual approaches that different physicians take to identical clinical problems. This study suggests that neurologists' decisions about tPA are based on many factors. Some of these factors include their own opinions about the quality of life a person might have after a severe stroke. For instance, Dr. Shamy discovered that most of the surveyed neurologists were less likely to give tPA to patients with dementia (like Alzheimer disease). This is in contrast to recent studies that have shown that there is no greater risk to tPA in people with dementia. Further supporting this finding was the observation that the physicians were less likely to treat patients with more severe strokes or those who might require assisted living.
Interesting results, interesting reading about decisions people face every day.

(Image from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Low-T therapy may boost stroke risk

Unless you've been disconnected from television for the last five years, you've seen the marketing term: "low T" and countless commercials pitching testosterone therapy to men.

Recent research, though, might put a pause in deciding to start taking the medication, as testosterone medication may boost risk of heart attack, stroke, death:
The new research found that among 8,709 older men who were assessed for the possibility of blocked arteries, those taking testosterone were 30% more likely to suffer an adverse event -- a stroke, a heart attack or death.
"Our findings raise some uncertainty regarding the potential safety of testosterone use in men," concluded the authors, a group of physicians and epidemiologists in Colorado and Texas. While patients taking testosterone should not abandon the medication willy-nilly, they added, "it is important to inform patients that long-term risks are unknown and there is a possibility that testosterone therapy might be harmful."
At least, this raises questions to your doctor if you are considering testosterone therapy.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

'Come to me, all you who are weary'

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I've heard many stories of people in stroke recovery who tire easily. Personally, I became weary, too. Things eventually improved, which, as a distance runner with a busy work schedule, I'm grateful for.

But sometimes, life can make anyone feel weary and burdened.

Physical weariness and heavy burdens are one thing. But Jesus, in this passage, is using that metaphor for the wearied and burdened spirit. The burdens can sap strength and hope.

Remember the promise, though: "I will give you rest." Find your hope, strength and rest.