Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ancient stories still make sense? Yes, if you actually think about it

In my personal tradition for Lent, I've been listening to selected books of The Bible while running. Now, if you're unfamiliar with The Bible, hang on with me  - the best is yet to come. This year, I have gone through 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and about to get through 2 Chronicles.

From flickr by Adam Dimmick
Those are very interesting books from, in Christian-speak, the Old Testament. In short, these are the stories of God's people, their constant pendulum of accepting and following God, moving away and ignoring God, then back again. And again. And again.

Much like real life.

The first time I went through these books of The Bible, I came away confused but intrigued. To me, having some knowledge about these years of kings and kingdoms helps explains so much the teachings of Jesus and his followers that came later. Get even a little grasp of the Old Testament, and the New Testament makes a lot more sense, in terms of location, groups of people, what people do and say and why, and much more.

One book that helped me a lot in my journey on this is the book "Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today," written by United Methodist pastor Adam Hamilton. I downloaded the audio version from my local public library and listened to it several months ago.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

'Seek the Lord while he may be found'

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
We're all been there: Lost, seeking or calling. It might be in your work life. Or your personal life. Marriage. Family. Spiritual life.

When and where have you sought God?

Lately, I've been listening to audio versions of Old Testament books while running. Right now, I'm on 2 Kings, a time when many leaders looked away from God - not seeking God.

Isaiah was on the scene at that time, and his words from that time period were relevant then and can be relevant now: Get near and seek God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

More links between air pollution and stroke risk

Chengdu, China, 2006
This isn't the first posting here about the link between air pollution and stroke risk.

Of course, air pollution generates many, many other problems. I remember visiting London several years ago and, when blowing my nose, found a tissue full of dirt. In visiting Chengdu, China, later, the city was covered with smog.

I ran in both cities, but couldn't help but notice the affect on my breathing.

Here's one more piece of evidence that air pollution is linked to increased stroke risk:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Living too far away from stroke centers

Too far, too long.

Rural America is especially hard hit when it comes to stroke centers "over an hour away" for one third of Americans:
"Even under optimal conditions, many people may not have rapid access to comprehensive stroke centers, and without oversight and population level planning, actual systems of care are likely to be substantially worse than these optimized models," says Dr. Mullen.
Levels of access to care also varied in different geographical areas. Worryingly, access to care was lowest in an area often referred to as the "Stroke Belt" - 11 states where stroke death rates are more than 10% higher than the national average, predominantly situated in the southeast of the US.
"Reduced access to specialized stroke care in these areas has the potential to worsen these disparities," says Dr. Mullen. "This emphasizes the need for oversight of developing systems of care."
So the people who are most likely to need the care are also the most likely to be too far from care. We can - and must - do better.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rebuilding a brain: How long can it take?

So many of us have been there - desperately trying to find ways to rebuild a brain. Here's one authors take on what it takes on the best ways to rebuild your brain after a stroke:
"In a cognitive sense, it’s true I am not back to where I was – I had a good memory and sharp analytical skills," David, 56, says. "But I have come a long way and in other senses, I am well ahead of where I was – in my ability to deal with life’s difficulties. I am calm and composed, I am more compassionate and my relationship with my three teenage daughters has improved as I am less irritable and much more present with them."
He details how he recovered in his new book "How I Rescued My Brain" and hopes he can inspire the UK’s one million stroke survivors. About 150,000 people have a stroke each year in Britain and half are left with disabilities. Although you can’t recover parts of the brain that are lost, you can “rewire” it so other parts take over.
"The first three to six months after a stroke are likely to show the best recovery, and sometimes people are told they won’t recover any more after that, but the research shows you can even years later," says Dr Shamim Quadir from the Stroke Association.
I like the last phrase in the last quote - you can see improvement even years later. There's a bit of a mindset in certain corners of health care that six weeks after anything is all the recovery you're going to get. That's just too simple and often wrong.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The stress of aphasia and recovery

When my stroke happened, I couldn't talk. I slowly recovered that ability, but not without some stress, worries and frustration. And, as this story (link below) reminds everyone, aphasia doesn't reduce intelligence.

Check out this story about someone who speaks volumes of stroke rehab - by not saying much at all:
The stroke survivor has spent the last six years learning to speak again, thanks to aphasia, a condition that can range from trouble finding words to losing the ability to speak, read, or write.
It does not affect intelligence. Tom understands exactly what you've said, and in his mind knows what he wants to say - but the message gets scrambled when he opens his mouth to articulate a thought.
"Before...smoke, smoke, smoke," Tom said in describing what likely led to the stroke at just 49. "But now - quit."

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Singing for stroke survivors

Back years ago, I felt it one Sunday morning.

Photo by lungstruck via Flickr
I'm a longtime, hymnal-using United Methodist. So one Sunday morning several months after my stroke, during a worship service, I sang along with everyone else, standing and holding a hymnal.

And suddenly, I felt like my language skills had gained a notch. This wasn't the first time I felt that way, but it was the first time while singing.

Now, here's a more recent story from across the pond on how how stroke survivors can sing:
One Voice was was set up in 2008 by Lorna Bickley and Katy Bennett as a community choir for people who had suffered strokes. Singing helps recovery of movement, memory, breathing, speaking - and confidence.
The phenomenon was first documented in Sweden in the early 18th Century when a young man who couldn't speak due to brain damage amazed the congregation at his local church by loudly singing along to hymns.
The American Stroke Association reported "the acquired language disorder now called aphasia became a subject of clinical study and a target for rehabilitation beginning in the mid-1880s".
"Since that time, every clinician working with aphasia has seen individuals who can produce words only when singing."

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

To avoid stroke risk, sleep like Goldilocks?

Wait around long enough, and you'll find research supporting almost anything you want. Maybe.

Almost a year ago, a study found lack of sleep raises stroke risk. As someone who enjoys sleep, I thought this was great news.

Now, another study finds that sleeping too much may increase stroke risk:
And those who transitioned from averaging less than 6 hours of nightly shut-eye to more than 8 hours had the highest risk, with close to a fourfold increase in stroke risk compared with people who consistently averaged 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
"We don't know yet whether long sleep is a cause, consequence, or early marker of ill health. More research is needed to understand the relationship between long sleep and stroke," said PhD candidate Yue Leng, of the University of Cambridge in England, in a written statement.
The study adds to the growing body of evidence on the ties between sleep and stroke risk.