Thursday, May 29, 2014

More news on blood pressure and stroke

High blood pressure is a well-known stroke risk factor.

Now, it's important for patients whose blood pressure moves around between doctor visits should seriously explore blood pressure control. A recent report links variable blood pressure to stroke and other risk:
When comparing the highest versus the lowest levels of between-visit variability in systolic blood pressure readings, there were greater risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, hospitalization for heart failure, and all-cause death through a maximum of 5.7 years of follow-up, according to Paul Muntner, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health.
The findings were consistent across various subgroups, including in both patients who were and were not at their blood pressure goals, he reported at the American Society of Hypertension meeting here.
"The key thing is that blood pressure variability has been known about for a long time, but it's just been ignored as a challenge to properly measuring blood pressure," Muntner told MedPage Today. "And I think data over the past 5 years similar to these have begun to accumulate to suggest that it has prognostic importance."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Exercise and stroke recovery

Photo from U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention
Nothing surprising in this report, how exercise aids in stroke recovery:
"There is strong evidence that physical activity and exercise after stroke can improve cardiovascular fitness, walking ability and upper arm strength," statement author Sandra Billinger, a physical therapist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said in an AHA/ASA news release.
"In addition, emerging research suggests exercise may improve depressive symptoms, cognitive function, memory and quality of life after stroke," she added.
Despite these benefits, "too few health care professionals prescribe exercise as a form of therapy for stroke. There is a big gap in America between once stroke patients are discharged from rehabilitation and the transition to community exercise programs when they go home. Many are left on their own. We don't have a system in place to help stroke patients feel comfortable with exercise," Billinger said.
It's pretty self-evident that exercise- whatever level you can - is generally good for you. It can extend the length and quality of your life. It can be a tool in preventing strokes and other serious ailments.

If you've been here before, you've seen lots of references to the benefits of exercise. And I'm convinced that my history of a distance runner helped me survive my stroke and get through recovery.

So - with your doctor's blessing, exercise if you can, to whatever degree you can.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

'With him on my side I'm fearless'

Light, space, zest—
    that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
    afraid of no one and nothing.
Fear can be overwhelming. Fear of the unknown. Or, sometimes even worse, fear of the known.

A few days ago, I was reminded of this verse in Psalm, and especially like the rendering of it in The Message. Afraid, it says, of no one and nothing.

I admit that 16 years ago this month, fear was trying to overwhelm me. But with God's gifts of health professionals, family and friends, fear was defeated.

Will I ever fear again? That's a tall order for anyone. But when fear comes near, I'll take comfort from these words, knowing that God is with me and that God defeats fear. For everyone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Orange Popsicles and stroke awareness

This summer, when the weather gets hot, I think I'll have an orange Popsicle.

I ran across this quirky story about a stroke survivor whose one of her early phrases in recovering speech was "orange Popsicle."

You can also check out the video below on how a couple sends out a hopeful message to stroke survivors, one Popsicle at a time:
But with her new husband, Jonny, by her side, she began to beat the odds. First, she began moving her pinky finger and eventually began trying to talk again.
“She said, ‘I love you. Orange Popsicle,’” Jonny remembered. “And she kept saying that, ‘Orange Popsicle, orange Popsicle,’ all through rehab, ‘I want an orange Popsicle.’”
Amy’s Popsicle craving was a silver lining in an otherwise very dark time. It was a symbol of her progress and is now one of support.
The couple launched National Orange Popsicle Week a few years ago to raise money and awareness for other young stroke survivors and their families. They want people to know strokes can affect anyone, young and old.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Know and share stroke symptoms - of course!

I haven't emphasized it this year, but May is Stroke Awareness Month in the United States. Personally, I think people should be aware of stroke signs and symptoms year round.

Still, there have been lots of stories published this month telling people it's important to know the signs of stroke:
Dr. Henry Woo and Dr. David Fiorella, co-directors of the Stony Brook University Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center, say the most important thing is to remember the FAST rules about stroke symptoms:
F -- face drooping
A -- arm weakness
S -- speech difficulty
T -- time to call 911
"Speed of treatment is crucial," said Woo, an endovascular neurosurgeon and professor of neurological surgery and radiology at Stony Brook's School of Medicine, in a university news release. "People are seeking treatment faster and, more critically, at the right place -- a health care facility that's been certified as a primary stroke center."
You can read more using the link above. And share this short but important message with others!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'He cares for you'

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Lately, I've had to work on getting rid of my own anxiety.

A sore (before and after surgery) knee that is mending. Some unexplained muscle pain (or at least, appears to be muscle pain) working around from my back to side to front. Work. Pesky rain gutters. Uncooperative printer.

And so on...

Then, I read the words in 1 Peter. I'm not in control. God is, and he cares for me. Those last four words are my favorite words of this line of text. God - in all of his might, the size of his universe(s), his enduring strength - cares for me.

And God cares for all. Loves us all. Cares for and loves you.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Stroke survivors struggle with heart health

Taking good care of yourself is one way to help prevent a stroke. That's especially important for those of us who've already had one.

If you've seen this blog before, you've seen lots of support of exercise, good diet and watching your blood pressure and other numbers - key elements of heart health.

And, according to recent research, many stroke survivors are facing the challenge of poor heart health:
Less than one out of every 100 stroke survivors met all of the American Heart Association's criteria for ideal cardiovascular health, researchers found.
The percentage of patients who met none or only one of the seven goals used to define ideal cardiovascular health increased from 18% in 1988-1994 to 33% in 2005-2010, and less than 1% achieved all seven goals, according to Michelle Lin, MD of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Standing and playing: Might make a difference

Standing while playing, some recent research shows, your recovery might be better.

I ran across an interesting article on how virtual reality games may improve stroke recovery:
For their study, the researchers randomly divided 59 patients who had recently suffered a stroke into two groups.
With the help of therapists, people in both groups participated in a series of 10 to 12 virtual reality gaming sessions lasting 20 minutes each over three weeks.
One group stood to play the games and the other sat. Games included soccer goaltending and snowboarding and were designed so that people standing needed to shift their weight by leaning and reaching to succeed.
The mobility of participants in both groups improved, but the standing participants saw larger gains.
Now, the study was small - just 59 people - but it does make some sense that standing is better than sitting. Improving mobility is a challenge for many stroke survivors, and this and other studies might make a real difference for many.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Stroke survivors need compassion

Clearly, many people are unfamiliar with aphasia, which, at the extreme, might leave a stroke patient unable to speak. I lost the ability to speak for a while during and after my stroke. I regained that ability, but not everyone does.

So I really feel for this stroke survivor who was denied flight out of LAX:
Sherry Wright, of Canyon Country, is still upset about the way she and her disabled sister, Heidi Wright, were treated by a Transportation Security Administration official at LAX.
Heidi, 58, suffered a stroke 10 years ago. She is wheelchair-bound and unable to speak.
"He just wanted me to make my sister talk, and I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'Wow, we're going to make a miracle right now,'" said Wright."
A miracle. Instead of a government employee conducting a miracle, a little compassion and kindness would have worked.