Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cholesterol and risk - drugs might help you prevent a stroke

More tools for lowering stroke risk - but let's make sure.

Check out the recent story how cholesterol drugs may lower stroke risk for healthy older adults:
Icons made by Freepik from is licensed by CC BY 3.0
The study found that when people took medications called statins or fibrates, their risk of stroke over almost a decade went down by about one-third.
But, lead researcher Dr. Christophe Tzourio, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Bordeaux and Inserm in France, doesn't think older people should start taking these drugs solely for stroke prevention.
"Our results should not be interpreted as an indication for prescribing statins or fibrates to elderly individuals. We wouldn't recommend changing medications based on the results of only one study," he said.
"The next step is to see whether we can replicate our findings or not," he added.
I'd second the doctor's notion of waiting. If you're a "healthy older adult," you might question the need of adding a drug that might have some unsettling side effects. Yet, if cholesterol numbers indicate a problem, be sure to work with your doctor to decrease your risk.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

'You have done wonderful things, planned long ago ...'

Lord, you are my God. I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, planned long ago, faithful and sure.
-Isaiah 25:1
Sometimes, not often, I think of what might have been. If my stroke never happened, my language never affected, this life nearly snatched away from me.

A rather pointless exercise, I must say.

When those thoughts show up, I should consider words such as the ones from Isaiah - God has done wonderful things, planned long ago, faithful and sure.

Now, certainly, this life is not a rosy walk in the park all the time. Still, consider wonderful things. Beautiful mountains, streams and forests. People who play a positive influence in your life. Wonderful things can be small - even a moment of peace. Or can be large - positive, life-changing events or revelations.

We often pray to God when bad things happen. And we should. But consider exalting God, too, when we recognize his wonderful things. God is faithful and sure.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stroke prevention: Not glamorous, but more effective than all the high-tech tools we have

This week's postings are devoted to stroke prevention. It's not glamorous or exciting. Very little cutting-edge research using whiz-bang technology.

Instead, it's about high blood pressure, diet, smoking, diabetes and the like.

But controlling those factors could prevent more strokes, keep fewer people disabled and prevent more strokes than any high-tech solution - at least during my lifetime.

So, pass along a recent CDC write-up about American Stroke Month and National High Blood Pressure Education Month:
Stroke is largely preventable. You may be able to prevent stroke or reduce your risk through healthy lifestyle changes. High blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for stroke. Others include high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prevent a stroke, and you might just save a life; read and learn more

Prevent a stroke, perhaps save a life.

I don't dwell on this month as stroke awareness month. I firmly believe that stroke awareness should not be limited to a single month, but every day, every hour. But in May, you find a lot of articles published about stroke patients, treatment, signs and prevention.

And prevention is key. With that in mind, this recent article has some very good, reasonable advice on how to prevent a stroke in middle age:
The number of people in their 40s and 50s having strokes has rocketed, with obesity and sedentary lifestyles blamed for the rise. New NHS figures show that since 2000, the number of men aged 40 to 54 in England hospitalised after stroke has grown by 46%, and among women, 30%. And for working-age sufferers, stroke can have a crippling financial impact. According to the Stroke Association, lost income due to death and disability caused by a stroke has been estimated to cost those affected £1.3bn a year. “Stroke survivors unable to return to work can struggle to cope with a fall in income, increased household bills and a benefits system that does not recognise the full impact of stroke,” says Jon Barrick, the charity’s chief executive.
The more swiftly a stroke is diagnosed and treated, the better a patient’s recovery will be. But how can you reduce the risk of it happening to you in the first place?
Click on the link above and read the entire article - and remember, if you prevent a stroke, you can perhaps save a life. Even our own.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Doesn't take a medical degree to save a life - know stroke signs

We've got a long way to go to prevent strokes, to find ways to maximize immediate stroke treatment, and to decrease the rate of disability for stroke survivors. Strokes kill too many people and disable too many people.

I, personally, don't have a hospital or a lab. You probably don't either. But we can make more people aware of early warning signs of stroke:
"Today, thanks to early detection, aggressive treatment and new intervention therapies, more stroke patients than ever are returning to normal life with limited to no disability," said Dr. Stanley Tuhrim, director of the Stroke Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Looking at how aphasia affects speech and writing - but again, NOT intelligence

Don't read too much into the study itself, since the group studied just five people with aphasia - a language disorder that often strikes stroke patients - but I can certainly relate to many of these experiences.

Bumper sticker image from U.S. Veterans Affairs
One of my own quirky problems revolved around pronouns - he/she or her/him, for example. I would frequently misspeak them - calling a she a he or saying him when I meant her. That problem has pretty much resolved itself, but it was very frustrating at the time.

So if you know someone who had some of the problems described below - or you have had a problem like this yourself - know that you are definitely not alone. And, as I've said repeatedly, aphasia does not decrease intelligence.

So read how the brain separates our ability to talk and write:
The team, which included Simon Fischer-Baum of Rice University and Michele Miozzo of Columbia University, both cognitive scientists, studied five stroke victims with aphasia, or difficulty communicating. Four of them had difficulties writing sentences with the proper suffixes, but had few problems speaking the same sentences. The last individual had the opposite problem -- trouble with speaking but unaffected writing.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Are hospital patients with stroke 'hiding in plain sight?'

Designed by

So, it's a little distressing to find that time is still a problem - for patients who are already in a hospital. Even delays in imaging to determine best treatment. You'd think if the patient was already in the hospital, that would not be a problem.

But it is.

Read about recent research showing that imaging is delayed when a stroke strikes within a hospital:

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Computers can be helpers, can't become masters

Photo from U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services
I work in front of a computer all day. Then often, a little more in the evening and weekends. Then there's the smart phone.

All this technology should make more much more efficient, right? Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Turns out that technology alone - at least in its current "one-size-fits-all" state - isn't necessarily the great advance in stroke care.

Check out the Modern Healthcare article on how electronic health records alone don't improve stroke:

Friday, May 01, 2015

Aspirin a day? Before you start (or stop) read further ...

Do you take an aspirin a day?

I used to, sometimes in combination with Plavix or warfarin as physician-directed. Aspirin sellers, of course, pitch this idea in advertising. I stopped taking it after a heart procedure that reduced my stroke risk and, with no other risk factors aside from age, my cardiologist told me it's not necessary.

Turns out that lots of people take a daily aspirin to prevent a stroke or heart attack. One recent story says a daily aspirin is taken by more than half of older U.S. adults:
Most appear to start taking daily aspirin after discussing the matter with a health care provider, said study lead author Craig Williams, a pharmacotherapy specialist at Oregon State University in Portland.