Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's important: Stories of survival

Today is World Stroke Day. Now, that doesn't mean a lot to me. Strokes don't keep a calendar, This blog is not part of a non-profit trying to raise profile or raise funding (both of which are needed and important, by the way).

But I did run across a Tampa Bay Times piece about the most important part of stroke awareness - people. Check out the link to read three stories of survival:
"I was having a perfect day and felt completely fine the second before my left side went out," she said.
Bedinghaus is like many Americans who have suffered a stroke and didn't see it coming.
Wednesday is World Stroke Day, and the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association of Tampa Bay use the day as an opportunity to encourage everyone to learn the warning signs of a stroke by using the acronym FAST:
Face drooping; Arm weakness; Slurred speech; and Time to call 911.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

'... He heard my voice ...'

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice;

    my cry came before him, into his ears.
Could you talk during and after your stroke? I couldn't that day. To this day, I feel that my thoughts are sometimes bottled up while I try to get them out. Writing is much easier for talking. The delete key is my friend.

It especially comes through during times of stress, when I'm tired, when I'm not familiar with the topic, or when I'm given little time to think about what I'm supposed to say.

The words in this passage gives me some comfort. God hears your voice. In times of stress. When you're tired. Any circumstances. And if your voice has been silenced or stifled by a stroke, God still hears you perfectly, even if you are in a silent struggle.

Distress? Call for God. He stands ready to hear your voice - even if impaired of silent. Your cry comes before him loud and clear.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Preventing a stroke might prevent a death

We all need to encourage better treatment for better outcomes for stroke patients.

BUT, just as important are ways to prevent strokes. For every stroke we prevent, we prevent a possible death or disability. A recent study combined some key methods to reduce stroke risk and, not surprisingly, that healthy lifestyle choices may cut women's stroke risk:
After being followed an average of 10 years, women who ate a healthy diet, drank alcohol moderately, never smoked, remained physically active and had a healthy body weight were 54 percent less likely to have a stroke than women with none of these factors, said study author Susanna Larsson, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
While other studies have looked at single risk factors, "only a few studies have examined the combined effects of a healthy lifestyle on stroke risk," Larsson said.
"We observed that the risk of stroke decreased steadily with an increasing number of healthy lifestyle habits," she said.
While the study found an association between healthy habits and stroke risk, a causal link was not proven.
Take this seriously - the life you save may be your own.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

'To learn to be alone with God ...'

I have found silence to be a powerful element in prayer. To learn to be alone with God even in the presence of others is something we Christians should try to do. There are innumerable times during the day when we can turn our thoughts, even for a moment, from business affairs and center them on God’s goodness, Christ’s love, our fellow man’s needs.
-J. C. Penney

Not long ago, I received this quote from a ministry called The Ranch. an interesting take on a relationship with God from, of all people, the founder of the J.C. Penney Co.

Now, he's long gone, and the chain of stores has certainly has its ups and downs. But still, the quote speaks to me. We live in a hurry-up world that is full of noise, images, bright lights and so many other distractions. It's so easy to forget to find time to be alone with God.

But it's so important. One reason that I enjoy running and cycling is that it gets me away from so many distractions and gives me time to be alone with God.

Not into such things? Find your own time and place, as Penney said, in the middle of our bustling world.

Now, enjoy the Penney's reference in the video below - part of the second-funniest movie ever made - then make plans to have time alone with God!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do stroke patients already in hospital get less treatment?

You'd think that if you're already a hospital patient, you'd get quicker care for an in-hospital stroke vs. having a stroke elsewhere.

Not necessarily, sadly. After years of visiting and sitting with hospital patients, I can see why. You see delays in almost everything. And in a recent Canadian study, it was found that in-hospital stroke patients wait longer for care:
The study results showed that in-hospital patients waited an average of 4.5 hours from the time symptoms were recognized to undergo computed tomography compared with 1.3 hours for patients brought to the ED.
"To me that's a shocking difference," said Dr Saltman.
About 29% of in-hospital stroke patients met the "benchmark" best practice of getting thrombolysis within 90 minutes of symptom onset compared with 72% of patients coming from the community, said Dr Saltman.
In addition, the in-hospital group was less likely to receive thrombolysis (12%) than the group admitted after having a stroke outside the hospital (19%), even if they were eligible for this intervention, she added.
In-hospital patients stayed longer in the hospital (17 days vs 8 days), were more likely to be discharged to a rehabilitation facility (40% vs 32%), and were less likely to be sent home (35% vs 44%).
This speaks volumes for the need for advocates for stroke patients, especially if they are having speech or physical difficulties while in the hospital.

Is it true in the United States? Add your own experiences below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Health risks can linger long after a stroke

After a stroke, after leaving the hospital, after a few months, memories fade and, human nature being human nature, people tend to relax their guards.

However, a few months might not long enough to assure health risks are adequately addressed after a stroke. A recent study indicates health risks after a stroke may linger for at least five years:
In the study, Swartz's team analyzed data from about 24,000 patients in Canada who suffered a stroke or mini-stroke, clinically known as a "transient ischemic attack" (TIA).
All of the patients had already survived the "high-danger" period, which is typically thought to be the 90 days after hospital discharge.
However, within the first year after this high-risk period, 9.3 percent of the patients died, had a repeat stroke, mini-stroke, heart attack or were admitted to long-term care. Death was the most common of these events, affecting more than 5 percent of patients in the first year.
Among patients who were still alive after a year, the rate of these events remained at 5 percent in each of the following four years, according to the study to be presented Tuesday at the Canadian Stroke Congress in Vancouver.
"We now need to identify ways to determine which people, among those who have made it through the riskiest period, remain most at risk for serious events so we can develop appropriate preventive interventions," Swartz said.
The last quote is the important point - preventing those bad outcomes that come even years after a stroke. Even while the search Swartz describes is going on, it highlights the need for you to keep a watch on your own health.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Weird Al: 'I go to church'

This summer, Weird Al Yankovic came out with a new album. I've always enjoyed his work - funny, clever, entertaining.

Now, I have very little knowledge of Weird Al's set of personal beliefs but got a small and positive glimpse about his typical Sunday a few days ago in Parade magazine:
Generally, I get up and pour myself a bowl of cereal with some soy milk on it. I quickly check the Internet. I go to church, and then I might pick up a burrito or food for the whole family. Maybe we’ll go to the park, watch a movie on TV, or camp out in the backyard.
"... I go to church, ..."

That small, unpreachy statement says something. It says that it's OK to tell people you go to church. It might lead to great things for someone who hears you.

Now, is Weird Al perfect in everything because he goes to church? Of course not. No one is. But perfection is not required. God loves you just the way you are.

Now, from Al's latest album ...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Dr. Groucho got it right

Groucho Marx might have said it best: "I intend to live forever, or die trying."

I can connect with Groucho after a hole in my heart was closed back in 2007. Click on this link for info about my patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure and why.

The short story version is that the hole between the upper two chambers in my heart apparently allowed a blood clot to circumvent the clot-filtering mechanism in the lung, leading to a stroke in 1998 and a mini-stroke in 2007.

Since then, I've seen lots of studies indicating that this procedure might or might not be the best way to treat stroke survivors, looking at procedure vs. blood-thinning medication. My concern about warfarin (also known as Coumadin) was that as a fairly active person, taking pills that make you bleed easier might not be a good idea. Plus, pills and the related monthly blood tests cost money. I ditched the pills six months after the procedure.

That's more of a long-term concern instead of the relatively short-term outcomes in most studies. However, a recent study suggests that PFO closure may be cost-effective over long term:
PFO closure reached the incremental cost-effectiveness threshold of  < $50,000 per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained in 2.6 years. Moreover, the treatment met the threshold of < $50,000 per life-year gained in 4.9 years. The per-patient mean cost of medical therapy surpassed that of PFO closure after 30.2 years of follow-up.
Now, I was in my 40s when my PFO closure occurred, so I plan to live 30.2 years (and more, I hope!) afterward.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Cholesterol-lowering drugs and stroke recovery

One of those interesting-but-we're-not-sure-how-this-works studies comes from recent research about cholesterol drugs and stroke recovery.

Read how these drugs may help after certain strokes:
People taking the commonly used drugs known as statins were also 2.5 times more likely to be discharged home or to a rehabilitation facility, the study reports.
When it comes to the best treatment for hemorrhagic stroke, there hasn't been a standard treatment recommendation, according to the study's lead author, Dr. Alexander Flint, the medical director of neuroscience quality at Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City, Calif. Now, he said, physicians should know that taking patients off statin treatment in the hospital "may carry a risk of substantially worse outcome."
The findings from this study aren't considered definitive because it wasn't designed to prove that the statin treatment directly caused the lower risk of death.