Friday, January 31, 2014

Playing 'games' to improve recovery

We've see stories before about the idea of adapting video games and other technology for stroke recovery therapy.

As the motion sensor-based technology improves, more advances seem to be coming. For example, check this blurb and video how stroke recovery might be assisted by Microsoft's Kinect, specifically upper-limb motor functioning:
Stroke patients can get direct feedback about their recovery from the Kinect, which is able to capture the skeletal movements in real-time and relay the information back to the user. Stroke Recovery with Kinect features “three game-like exercises,” each of which requires the user to test his or her dexterity. This software could serve as an affordable, accessible addition to the recovery process for future sufferers. Check out a video of the program in action at Microsoft Research.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Both sides of brain involved in speech, study finds

I feel for people who have speech problems after a stroke. It happened to me in 1998. For a few hours, I could not speak or read at all. When I finally could speak, the words made no sense.

My wife asked me to say "Jonesboro," the name of an Arkansas city I'd visited not long before. I came out with: towrith, rice, torithe (her own spellings). I had apparently confused two separate ideas: Jonesboro the city, and the fact that it is in east Arkansas, known for its rice fields.

So I feel for people such as the Canadian woman who have been struggling with aphasia after her stroke:
“I still…lots of things I can’t talk,” she said, speaking slowly. “It’s in your head but it won’t come out.”
My stroke happened on the left side of my brain, and it slowly rewired itself so that my speech, reading and writing abilities slowly came back. I still feel that my speech is not quite what it was, but so much better than that day in 1998.
Photo from
National Institute on Aging
A recent article might explain how rewiring might happen, quoting experts how both sides of the brain are involved in speech, study finds:
Speech involves the use of both sides of the brain, according to a study that may overturn the widely held belief that only one side of the brain is used for this task.
The findings improve understanding of how speech is generated in the brain and could help lead to new ways to treat speech problems, the researchers said.
Much more research is needed to help so many people struggling with speech problems after strokes.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Walkable neighborhoods: Better health

It's well-established that walking is good for you. If you seen this blog before, chances are you've seen several blog postings about walking and other exercises as stroke prevention tools.

Sadly, not everyone have good access to places for walking. And that is not good for public health. More people walking means more people in better health. Here's a recent article about how walkable neighborhoods mean less obesity and diabetes:
Photo from U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention
Results from the research, which also sought to determine the best measures of "walkability" for public policy purposes, were published online January 14 in PLOS One by Richard H. Glazier, MD, from St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, and colleagues.
"While interventions to prevent obesity and promote healthy body weight are most often aimed at individuals, there is a growing recognition of upstream environmental factors, including the urban built environment, as potential targets for intervention," the authors write."
Diabetes and obesity are two stroke risk factors. Do you live in a walkable neighborhood? Then use it!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blood test could help doctors drill down into stroke cause

A few postings back, I cited a recent report that a quick MRI might help stroke patients fare better. The idea, in essence, is that with proper, accurate information, better decisions can be made.

Now, there's another story in a similar vein - a new blood test could help doctors drill down into what caused a patient to have a stroke:
From the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Clinical trials are underway for what could be a first-of-its-kind blood test that would help doctors determine what caused a patient to have a stroke.
Developed by Cincinnati-based Ischemia Care, the test isolates RNA from whole blood and examines immune responses, with the goal of differentiating where an ischemic stroke originated in a patient’s body.
Again, better information, obtained quickly, could potentially guide treatment and, in turn, potentially produce better outcomes. This story is not over, but worth watching.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Smoking: Linked to so many needless deaths

Smoking is getting even more bad press. It kills 480,000 people a year and it's a leading cause of strokes. I can't understand how someone in the tobacco industry lives with himself. If the industry ground to a halt tomorrow, it would not be too soon.

 Now, USA Today reports, a new surgeon general report says that smoking causes diabetes, colon cancer:
A new report from the surgeon general finds that smoking causes even more physical and financial damage than previously estimated, killing 480,000 Americans a year from diseases that include diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer.
The report, released today, represents the first time the surgeon general has concluded that smoking is "causally linked" to these diseases. The report finds that smoking causes rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction and macular degeneration, a major cause of age-related blindness. Smoking causes inflammation, impairs immune function and increases the risk of death from tuberculosis, an infectious disease. Smoking also harms pregnant women and their fetuses by causing birth defects called cleft lips and palates and by causing ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus.
The new report — issued 50 years after the first surgeon general report on smoking — finds that exposure to secondhand smoke, previously linked to cancer and heart attacks, also causes strokes.
Read the entire story to get more details and the non-answers from some tobacco companies.

Strokes. Cancer. Arthritis. Blindness. And more. Those are the results of too many cigarettes smoked. And one is too many.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quick MRI might help stroke patients fare better

Makes good sense - better timely information can help make better decisions. Here's an article about a recent study that shows quick MRI helps cut down on unnecessary interventions, and patients fare better:
Rapidly administering an MRI scan of the brain to patients who have had a stroke reduces by half the number of minimally invasive endovascular procedures they receive, procedures that are not always effective and can sometimes be harmful, according to a study published Thursday by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic.
Photo from the
National Institutes of Health
Endovascular procedures to treat stroke, which involve delivering medication or removing clots via catheter, are commonly used to help restore blood flow to the brain when IV clot-busting drugs fail. While they can be helpful for some patients, the procedures also carry risks — including possible further damage to blood vessels and exposure to anesthesia — and have failed to show a benefit to patients in several large trials. ...
Most stroke patients are evaluated for endovascular procedures with a CT scan, he said, which can show bleeding in the brain “but unfortunately really isn’t able to tell you if there’s any damage to the brain due to a blocked blood vessel.”
Strokes are serious, can be deadly and often leave longtime issues. The right treatment - guided by good information - might change that balance.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Shingles and stroke risk

I've never had shingles and hope to never experience that ailment. Like most of you, I know people who've had shingles and have heard horror stories.

But is the disease a sign for future stroke risk? This recent article cites research that younger adults who've had shingles may face higher stroke risk:
From the National Institutes of Health
Adults who get shingles after 40 don't have an increased risk of stroke. But along with those who had shingles before 40, they do have a higher risk of heart attack and "transient ischemic attack" (TIA), sometimes called a mini-stroke, the study authors said.
"In those aged less than 40 years at the time of herpes zoster, the risk of stroke, TIA and [heart attack] occurring in the years following was significantly higher than in [people without the infection]," said Dr. Judith Breuer, study lead author and a professor of virology and head of infection and immunity at University College London, in England.
"Herpes zoster is also more common in individuals who have risk factors for vascular disease, including diabetes and [high blood pressure]," Breuer said.
Now, this is not designed to add to someone's anxiety (see a couple of posts before) but rather give a heads-up to take action to avoid the risk factors Breuer cites.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

'Everything beautiful in its time'

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
It's a new year: A time for new starts, a time to look forward to hope.

Time can also be tricky. It can fly. It can drag. People - despite their best efforts - can't control time.

Yet time can be precious. Consider the words in Ecclesiastes - "He has made everything beautiful in its time." In its time. Not every thing is beautiful all the time. But in its time... .

Happy new year, everyone.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

'Do not be anxious about anything'

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Photo from the National Institutes of Health
Anxiety never helps.

Paul gave valid guidance to the Philippians. Instead of worrying, bring your issues to God. Now, did Paul say that's the only thing to do? No. It is, though, the first thing to do.

And recently, I saw stories that anxiety is linked to higher long-term risk of stroke:
The greater your anxiety level, the higher your risk of having a stroke, according to new research published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
The study is the first in which researchers linked anxiety and stroke independent of other factors such as depression. Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health problems. Symptoms include feeling unusually worried, stressed, nervous or tense.
You might say that Paul was way ahead of his time in giving stroke prevention advice. Follow it!