Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dead to hope? Jesus offers you his own 'Lazarus effect'

[This was originally posted Dec. 24, 2009; revised in 2014]
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

A few years ago (2008), I heard a presentation by one of the doctors responsible for making tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) available to stroke patients.

In my own 1998 experience, I could not speak, I could not move my right arm or leg - but after the clot-busting tPA, I regained those abilities. It was a dramatic experience. The doctor called it "the Lazarus effect."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Marriage might boost stroke survival odds

I see countless benefits of being married to someone who puts up with me. Now, it seems, a lengthy, stable marriage may boost stroke survival:
Stroke patients may have better odds of surviving if they're in a long-term stable marriage, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among more than 2,300 stroke sufferers, those who'd been "continuously" married had a better chance of surviving -- versus both lifelong singles and people who'd been divorced or widowed.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Aphasia hits young people differently than seniors

Stories about aphasia speak to me.
And stories about young people - I was just 39 - who have had a stroke also interests me. Further - and play the audio at the bottom of this posting - music and aphasia intrigue me.
“We are seeing more younger people with aphasia attending our program,” said Leora Cherney, the director of the Center for Aphasia Research and Treatment at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

'Give you a future filled with hope'

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.
Hope ever seem hopeless?

Personally, I'm a big fan of hope. But still, sometimes hope seems distant. Once, when people were in exile and hope seemed distant, this reminder came: "... they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope."

These verses stay with me for lots of reasons. I've run across it off and on in my life, which is not a big surprise. It's often-quoted. A couple of years ago, I had a small health scare (odd spot on a lung) that turned out to be nothing of note. A friend quoted one of these verses in response.

There are lots of thoughts these verses generate, but today, remember hope.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

More worrisome numbers about strokes striking the young

You've read about this concern here before: People designated as "older" Americans are seeing better numbers in stroke rates, while younger people are seeing a rise.

Now, we get some more solid statistics comparing the "Golden Generation" vs. "Generation X" with a finding of strokes decline in older Americans, rise in young:
"People born during what I call the 'Golden Generation,' 1945 to 1954, had lower rates of stroke than those born 20 years before them and also in the 20 years after them," said lead researcher Joel Swerdel. He is a Ph.D. candidate at the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Jersey.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Moderation in drinking might be linked to stroke risk reduction

One of the repeated themes you'll see here: moderation.

And here's one more reason to repeat it - researchers might link a little alcohol each day to cut your stroke risk:
A research team from England and Sweden reviewed 25 studies as well as national data from Sweden. The investigators reported that consumption of up to two drinks a day was associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke (blocked blood flow to the brain), but appeared to have no effect on the risk of bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke. ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Missing opportunities for stroke prevention

Do you know three people who've had a stroke?

Did one of those three have a missed opportunity to prevent a stroke?

Disturbing research from the United Kingdom suggests "missed opportunities" to prescribe drugs for stroke prevention:
Across the UK, that amounts to 33% of all stroke and 'mini-stroke' (transient ischaemic attack, or TIA) patients having a 'missed opportunity' for preventative treatment.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

America's Stroke Belt and stroke risk factors

Do you live in the "Stroke Belt," or generally the southern/southeastern United States, plus Indiana?

Stroke risk factors - which we've talked about lately, are a big part of the problem. And strokes can hit young people, too, especially in the Stroke Belt. I ran across this story from Memphis about an unlikely stroke victim:
She blacked out. When she came around, her left side was going numb.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Politics aside, cigarette taxes are linked to smoking decline

There's a lot of politics in taxes. So I'll leave lawmakers or voters to decide on cigarette taxes. However, if somehow, someday the tobacco industry grinds to a complete stop, I'll be OK with that.

Regardless of politics, though, check out how smoking declines as cigarette taxes rise:
The number of cigarette smokers in the United States has dropped by 8.5 million since 2005 — and that fall could be accelerated by a tobacco tax just passed in California.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

God is with you - even in the dark places

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Ever been in a dark place?

I always associate darkness with my stroke, with a vague recollection of being in a dark room while someone was looking at an image of my brain. I was confused, couldn't speak and couldn't move my right arm or leg.

Dark place indeed.

You likely recognize the verse above from the 23rd Psalm, one of the most often-quoted chapter in the Bible. It begins "The Lord is my shepherd... ." You might be even more familiar with other translations, including the King James version with its famous "valley of the shadow of death" phrase.

Today, though, consider that you have a comforter when you are in the dark. God is with you. You are never alone.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Stroke risk factors that need a solution

If you've read much of this blog, you've seen items about smoking, diet and other stroke risk factors. Click here to read a compilation.

But are you always in complete control of those risk factors? Or does just living in a poor neighborhood up stroke risk?:
Women and men of all races in the poorest neighborhoods were more likely to suffer a stroke than those in the richer neighborhoods. This held true even after the researchers adjusted for other factors such as age, race, sex and region of the country.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Cartoonist shares his personal stroke story

Chance are, you have a stroke story, or you know someone who has a stroke story. Every year, thousands of new stroke stories are generated.

The second part of today's news is that the cartoon "Nancy" is still published. I subscribe to two newspapers (yes, actual paper newspapers) and neither publishes "Nancy," which I remember from my youth.

So I almost missed the story of the current "Nancy" cartoonist, who uses his personal story to highlight stroke awareness:
[Guy] Gilchrist credits the minor event in his youth for motivating him to give up his unhealthy, stress-filled “rock-n-roll lifestyle” and go all-in on his craft. A second medical event – perhaps another minor stroke – in his 40s served as a powerful reminder, snapping him back into a healthy lifestyle that he now maintains at age 59.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Finding time to tune in to nature

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
-George Washington Carver
It's my favorite time of the year - fall.

Temperatures are cooler but not cold, ideal for being outdoors. The leaves turn and crunch underfoot. The sky turns an amazing blue.

I'm fortunate to live near a trail, lined with trees with frequent sightings of deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds. This time of year, it's often dark when I start running on the trail, and not long ago, I could hear an owl nearby along the route.

Then I stumbled across the quote from George Washington Carver about nature, God's unlimited broadcasting station.

Be sure to tune in.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Inhaling secondhand smoke? It's linked to higher risk of stroke

Here's yet another reason to stop smoking (or better yet, never start). Researchers found that secondhand smoke is linked to higher risk of stroke:
Researchers found that never-smokers who had a stroke were nearly 50 percent more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home than people who had never had a stroke.
During the study, stroke survivors exposed to secondhand smoke were also more likely to die from any cause compared to those without secondhand smoke exposure.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What's your mantra?

If you've been here before, you might well know that I'm a distance runner. Not a fast one, but a runner just the same.

Before another dark winter sets in, I got a Road ID bracelet with my name plus phone numbers in case of emergency.

I added one more line: my running mantra. When I get tired or get in a bad mental state, I repeat to myself: "Relax. Power. Glide. God."

This is mostly stolen from Olympic runner Jeff Galloway. I'm a big fan, and his mantra is "Relax. Power. Glide."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Courage. Sympathy. Love.

A little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.
-C. S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis
Courage. Sympathy, Love.

I ran across this C.S. Lewis quote not long ago and it started me thinking.

In a way, the first phrase reminds me of the Malcolm Gladwell book "Blink," which I recommend. There's such a thing as too much information in decision-making.

The second phrase is like the Cowardly Lion in the "Wizard of Oz." What made him move was his sympathy with other characters, not, as he says he lacks, courage.

And that "tincture" of the love of God? The good news is that this tincture - and so much more - is given to everyone.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Type of stroke location might be relevant to new treatment

Last week, we had a post about new stroke treatment. Not long afterward, I ran across another story about how - potentially - to decide on treatment. I might have to do with large-vessel strokes related to blood clots:
“There was some benefit of therapy up to 7 1/3 hours after onset — that’s an important new aspect,” Jeffrey L. Saver, MD, of David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a press release. “If you get the artery open at 3 hours, 65% of patients will be able to live independently 3 months later. If it takes 8 hours to get it open, then only 45% will be able to live independently. It makes a major difference in outcome.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Speed and the right place - more important than ever

Sooner the treatment, better the outcome.

You've read this before here - time is critical in getting a stroke patient to a stroke center hospital. Every minute counts.

You've also read about recent research on new stroke treatment. Now, read about how the new treatment calls for getting to the right place quickly:
That’s the implication of a study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that the sooner patients with severe strokes receive a thrombectomy, the less disabled they tend to be three months later.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

'Heals the sorrows of their hearts'

He binds their wounds, heals the sorrows of their hearts.
What do these words mean to you?

To me, they are about not the physical suffering we face in this world, but the spiritual suffering that impacts us all, sooner or later.

We'll all leave this physical world, but we all have the opportunity for ultimate healing of our spiritual suffering.

Not temporarily but eternally.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adding choices for possible stroke treatments

Last post, I included a link to my own story about the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator, better known as tPA.

Keep in mind, though, that my story is 18 years old. And still, tPA is the only approved drug to treat clot-caused strokes. I ran across an interesting story about the reason why the drug doesn't work every time, and what seems to be coming next:
Twenty years ago stroke doctors celebrated the arrival of a powerful new weapon: the clot-clearing drug tPA. It was hailed as a lifesaver and has proved to be one for hundreds of thousands of patients since. TPA was the first and is still the only medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating strokes caused by clots that block blood flow to the brain. But like so many medical marvels, tPA (which stands for tissue plasminogen activator) has turned out to have serious limitations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What are your odds of the right stroke treatment?

You can read my story here and an update here. But in a nutshell, I wound up in the right place and the right time when my stroke occurred back in 1998, two years after tissue plasminogen activator was approved for stroke patients - a Southern community hospital, of all places.

More than 18 years later, we still have problems getting this medication to stroke patients. Kaiser Health News noted geographic and racial disparities in stroke treatment tracked in a new study:
The findings come from a report published Wednesday in the journal Neurology. Researchers found stroke patients living in the Northeast states had more than twice the odds of receiving tPA — a powerful anti-coagulant that can break up the clot causing the stroke — than those living in the Midwest and the South.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

From a stroke survivor - take high blood pressure seriously

High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes. So it should be taken very seriously. A stroke prevented is one life possibly saved or one person potentially not disabled. As a stroke survivor, I wouldn't wish a stroke on anyone.

So we need to better than this -  1 in 4 Medicare patients uses blood Pressure meds incorrectly:
An analysis of 18.5 million Medicare Part D enrollees in 2014 found that 26 percent either skipped doses of their blood pressure medication or stopped taking the drugs entirely, according to the study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Positive research development for those facing a weakened hand

Stroke is the most common reason for adult disability in the United States - thousands each year have weakened limbs.

One area of research is electrical stimulation, and some positive news recently highlighted that innovative electrical stimulation glove improves hand function:
According to new research published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, researchers at the MetroHealth System, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation Center have developed a therapy whereby patients can be in control of the stimulation to their weak hand.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Another tool for important tasks

I have a hammer. I also have an air compressor and a few nail guns.

So, which tool should I use to hang a picture on a wall?

On the other hand, I once had the need to place a piece of cedar siding around 24 feet above the ground. One hand held the siding, but using a hammer is a two-handed operation. Now which tool should I use?

So I see the importance of health professionals with more tools to do the important work of treating stroke patients. Check out the story on the FDA approving a clot-picker use with tPA:
Two Trevo clot retrieval devices were approved Friday by the FDA for use in conjunction with tPA thrombolysis in acute ischemic stroke patients.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fewer people now rely on rat poison anticoagulant

Before smartphones, I had a voice-recorder device that gave me reminders and recorded lists and notes. I could record a reminder and tell it when to remind me. So every day around 5 in the afternoon, I'd get this reminder: "Take the rat poison."

That is, warfarin, also know as Coumadin. And it really can be - in a somewhat different dosage - rat poison. Read here about that.

I took warfarin for years after my stroke in 1998, requiring monthly blood tests to make sure it was effective in preventing blood clots that could lead to a stroke.

Problem is, it also had its own dangers - bruising, bleeding excessively from even a small cut, and internal bleeding, to name a few. I had some pretty ugly bruises myself during my warfarin years.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stroke, aphasia have no political convictions

I've tried to avoid politics on this blog. A stroke doesn't care about your political convictions - strokes kill and disable too many people regardless of their political stripes.

Aphasia, too, is a too-common condition with stroke survivors. It affects speech. In my case, I stopped speaking for a few hours, struggled with speaking for weeks and still - at least in my own mind - must concentrate harder to speak. Fortunately, aphasia doesn't affect intelligence. Click here to read more about aphasia.

But politics and aphasia collided recently when a spokesperson from the Donald Trump presidential campaign diagnosed opponent Hillary Clinton with "dysphasia," another word for aphasia.

The National Aphasia Association responded:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sleep - reducing stroke risk, boosting recovery

I know people who wish they didn't have to sleep so much. Sometimes I wish that, thinking how much more I can accomplish.

Then you read stories like this, linking sleep problems to stroke risk, recovery:
In addition, sleep problems can affect recovery from a stroke, according to the report.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It's not just money - it's affecting lives

Earlier this week, there was a posting about young people and strokes. Today, it's about the cost of care for elderly stroke survivors.

Now, cost is not a pleasant topic. It smacks of talk about death squads, rationing and other politically divisive terms.

But, how about we do agree on this: Preventing a stroke can save lives and resources that can always be used elsewhere. So, keep in mind stroke prevention in reading how caring for elderly stroke survivors costs an estimated $40 billion per year:
Using data from a national survey of Medicare beneficiaries, the team compared 892 elderly self-reported stroke survivors to 892 non-stroke controls, accounting for demographics and other health conditions, like hypertension, coronary heart disease or dementia.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Myth No. 3: Strokes are just for elderly people

I was 39. And I'm not the only one, not by far - scores of people younger than me have had strokes. Thus another installment of the occasional series about myths about strokes.

Strokes do not recognize your age. It can happen to the young or the old. Check out the chilling facts about how hospitalizations are rising quickly among younger adults:
Because strokes are most often associated with old age, symptoms in younger adults are often overlooked, according to patients, advocates and physicians. And their need for rehabilitation – to return to active lives as parents and employees, for instance – can be underestimated.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Keys to survival include speed and expertise

Where are stroke centers? Click here for a map and a list, at least according to The Internet Stroke Center.

It stands to reason that stroke centers are the place to take stroke patients - as long as you can get to one relatively quickly. Read here about the question are stroke centers life savers?:
The odds of surviving a stroke are slightly better for patients treated at hospitals with a specialized stroke department, known as primary stroke centers, a new study finds.
But that benefit was only seen if stroke patients got to a stroke center in less than 90 minutes, the study authors said.
"Treatment of stroke is very time sensitive. As the saying goes, time is brain," said lead researcher Dr. Kimon Bekelis.
"So the faster you intervene, the faster the patient recovers," he said.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Another chapter of: To close or not to close

A still from the video of my PFO closure.
Click here to watch a video.
The arguments continue: To close or not to close.

Back in 2007, after a mini-stroke that spring, I had a heart procedure designed to close a hole in my heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). It's a hole between the upper two chambers of the heart and was blamed for my 1998 stroke and the 2007 mini-stroke. I was taking a blood-thinner at the time.

You can read the story about the procedure, including video, by following this link.

Now, the American Academy of Neurology says we should not routinely close the hole. Others disagree. Click on the link after reading this snippet on how AAN nixes routine PFO closure:
Patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure is not recommended as a routine therapy for patients with cryptogenic ischemic stroke, according to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The lifestyle battle: Key for stroke survivors

Never thought about post-stroke life like this idea - unlike, say, cancer, you're never "cured" exactly. Rather, every day without another stroke is a win.

Read this interesting take how pre-stroke lifestyle tied to long term risk of more strokes, dementia:
Unlike a condition such as cancer, where if you undergo treatment successfully and survive ten years we might say “you battled it, you’re cured,” increased health risks remain after a stroke, Ikram said. This shouldn’t be discouraging, but should encourage people before or after stroke to do what they can to prevent another, he said.
“Once you suffer a stroke, treatment shifts toward medication and simple preventive measures are pushed to the background,” Ikram said. “Don’t neglect the simple things like quitting smoking, exercising more and controlling blood pressure.”
I won't argue with the idea of quitting smoking, which is one of the deadliest thing a human can do,  or with controlling blood pressure, the leading cause of strokes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Too many rehab patients suffer harm, not help

And this is why everyone needs an advocate.

I ran across this article showing that while stroke rehabilitation services can provide a great deal of help, they can do harm as well. This is a great illustration that every stroke patient in a facility needs someone watching, and the facility personnel need to know that someone is watching.

So read how nearly 30% of rehab facility patients suffer care-related harm:
The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General found that nearly 29% of Medicare beneficiaries admitted to inpatient rehab facilities experience an adverse event during their stay including healthcare-acquired infections, medication errors and pressure ulcers.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Myth No. 2: Just wait it out, and if you feel better, ignore it

Most of us have heard stories or actually witnessed it - someone is having stroke-like symptoms but instead of seeking immediate help, simply waits.

And sometimes, the symptoms go away and the person never seeks help.

But it's a myth that you shouldn't bother with help after a transient ischemic attack, or a mini-stroke. They can be precursors for something far, far worse.

Read this story, which I cited several before, on how one in eight strokes are preceded by a mini-stroke:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

If we can prevent just one ...

I know stroke survivors who didn't have preventable strokes but due to hidden causes.

But if you're a stroke survivor or care about someone who is a stroke survivor, then you might care about stroke risk factors and how much of a role they plan in nine out of 10 strokes.

A recent study indicated that stroke is largely preventable:
Hypertension (high blood pressure) remains the single most important modifiable risk factor for stroke, and the impact of hypertension and nine other risk factors together account for 90% of all strokes, according to an analysis of nearly 27000 people from every continent in the world (INTERSTROKE), published in The Lancet.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Myth No. 1: Aphasia and intelligence

In the next several weeks, look for occasional postings concerning myths about strokes, symptoms and survivors.

One is near and dear to my heart - aphasia.

When I had my stroke back in '98, I struggled to relearn how to speak, read and write (some people might think I'm still learning). But one very annoying aspect of this: people assumed that my intelligence was lowered because I had trouble with communication.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Be careful what you read - you've probably seen some bad information

Ah, Facebook.

You can read blog postings there. I enjoy seeing photos and news from my daughters and grandsons, plus news about other family and friends, especially those I seldom see.

But as you know, Facebook is fraught with bad information these days. I recently ran across a supposed list of causes of death so far this year - a list that is NOT reliable information. And since stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, that information is important. Right information, that is.

I won't reproduce this falsehood here, but you can read on about the supposed list of causes of death:
The list was problematic in several aspects, however. First of all, the displayed figures for 2016 are simply projections based on past trends, as up-to-date information of this nature simply isn't available. The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning causes of death tallies mortality data from 2014.
The list mingles diseases - heart disease, for example - with substances: tobacco and alcohol. Obesity itself seldom actually kills anyone, but it's on the list. It's what accompanies obesity or tobacco or alcohol abuse - heart disease and stroke, for example - that can be fatal. A cigarette itself generally doesn't cause a death. But multiple cigarettes can bring about a cause of death.

Here's the actual list of the 2014 leading causes of death in the United States, from this report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

That year is the latest available.

And it's OK to question what you read on Facebook!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is technology going to catch up with stroke recovery needs?

In the last few years, we've seen lots of ideas about technology and recovery. You can find a few here.

Still, it's a little disheartening that high-tech solutions seem to always be just over the horizon instead of in place and available to all stroke survivors.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability, and most stroke survivors are included in those numbers. How much productivity can be regained if we truly harness technology to make a difference in these lives?

So, with that, here's another trial featuring cutting-edge treatments for stroke patients using videogames and robotic arms:
New therapeutic devices for stroke recovery, made possible by advances in hardware and software, are transforming the typically low-tech world of stroke rehabilitation. Though the tools are still in the early stages, doctors say that they can be more motivating and engaging for patients than current standard therapies, and that they hold promise for stroke survivors who are too injured for traditional therapy.
“We’re entering a very exciting era,” says Dr. David Putrino, director of telemedicine at the Burke Medical Research Institute in White Plains, N.Y. “All of these new tools can really help us do our jobs much better.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wrong medicine for your particular stroke risks?

A few posts ago, I mention an article about the value of aspirin for those who experienced a mini-stroke.

Now, here's another article about when perhaps NOT to use aspirin when patients at risk for stroke get wrong medicine:
Researchers analyzed data on more than 500,000 people with atrial fibrillation, an irregular rapid heartbeat that can lead to stroke, heart failure and chronic fatigue.
Roughly 40 percent of these patients got aspirin instead of prescriptions for blood thinners – also called anticoagulants.
“By prescribing aspirin, we may be fooling ourselves

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Care about someone's future? Simple ways to bring down stroke risks

If you or a loved one had a stroke, you know how important it is to help people prevent strokes.

Exercise didn't ward off mine - a cryptogenic stroke - but a good exercise regimen brings down the odds of stroke risk years down the road. Check out the story on how middle-age fitness helps ward off stroke later:
Among nearly 20,000 adults in their mid to late 40s, researchers found the most fit had a 37 percent lower risk of having a stroke after 65, compared with the least fit.
The protective effect of fitness remained even after the researchers accounted for risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and an abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Looking for bandages for the soul

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
We've all had a broken heart, haven't we? Times of sadness or disappointment. Feelings of hopelessness.

Been there.

This Psalm writer tells us that God gives us hope, though, applying the bandage we need for these wounds of inward pain to heal.

Those bandages might not be easy to see during some of those times of heartbroken loss. But don't lose hope - seek his healing of the soul.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

'Mind your risks' especially important for high-risk populations

The best way to "treat" a stroke is to prevent it. This is from someone who had one.

Of course, not every stroke is preventable. Mine was a cryptogenic stroke. But the great majority are preventable, and here's an item about efforts in the area of racial disparities in stroke:
"The prevalence of hypertension is higher in blacks, but its impact is even greater in the black population. An increase of 10mmHg in blood pressure is associated with an 8 percent increase in stroke risk among whites but a 24 percent increase in stroke risk in blacks," said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of NINDS.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Getting serious about salt? We consume more than you might think

We've heard it before: too much salt in American diets. And since salt is a contributor to high blood pressure - the leading cause of strokes - too much can be serious.

Now, the FDA has issued new guidelines to target the sodium hiding in our diets:
Too much salt can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, as many research studies have demonstrated. "Experts at the Institute of Medicine have concluded that reducing sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day can significantly help Americans reduce their blood pressure and ultimately prevent hundreds of thousands of premature illnesses and deaths," Susan Mayne, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a statement.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Be careful to read the limitations, but this might be promising

Possible promise: stem cells and stroke recovery.

I ran across an article showing some "stunned" researchers. As the story mentions, it's a small number of people in a single study, but it might show some direction for future, larger research projects.

So read - and especially the caveats - how Stanford researchers "stunned" by stem cell experiment that helped stroke patient walk:
The one-time therapy involved surgeons drilling a hole into the study participants' skulls and injecting stem cells in several locations around the area damaged by the stroke. These stem cells were harvested from the bone marrow of adult donors. While the procedure sounds dramatic, it is considered relatively simple as far as brain surgery goes. The patients were conscious the whole time and went home the same day.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

'Now you are light'

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light ... .
Ever feel like you're living in the dark? I remember the day that I had my stroke and lying in a dark room. Vaguely, I remember the darkness might have had something to do with imaging.

But regardless of how light or dark my surroundings, I felt in the dark. Lost, confused and grasping for hope that I could not see.

And we've all been there, one way or the other.

Today, though, God offers us the opportunity to be a child of light, a light in his name. Regardless of any darkness in your past, you can live in the light.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Aspirin and you - reasons to take that lowly pill

Take two aspirin and call me in the morning, the old joke goes.

Now, we're told, aspirin just after a mini-stroke (also known as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA). It might keep you out of trouble. Read about how an immediate aspirin after mini-stroke cuts risk of major stroke:
"A great many people who have (mini-strokes or TIAs) don’t seek medical attention, and don’t feel that it’s an emergency," said lead author Peter Rothwell of the Stroke Prevention Research Unit in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford in the U.K.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Warning to the young - strokes can strike younger adults

Today, I'm the oldest I've ever been.

But my stroke happened at the young age of 39. And while that happened in 1998, it seems that since 2000, we're seeing a troubling rise in strokes in young adults, starting at age 25:
There's a troubling statistic in the United States when it comes to strokes.
Although stroke hospitalizations have declined in recent years among the aged, the opposite appears to be be happening among younger Americans. In a study released Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that between 2000 and 2010, hospitalizations for ischemic stroke, the most common type, dropped nearly 20 percent overall — but among people ages 25 to 44, there was a sharp 44 percent increase in the rate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blood pressure - finding patterns might help prevent strokes later

High blood pressure, as we know, is the leading cause of strokes.

Now, it seems, reviewing patterns in a person's blood pressure over time - in years - might find clues about predicting stroke risk:
For this new study, Portegies and her colleagues collected 20 years of data on the systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) of more than 6,700 Dutch adults. Participants were ages 55 to 106 and living in a suburb of Rotterdam.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Stroke stats can be confusing - but many strokes can be prevented

News about strokes in the United States is mixed bag these days. Fewer hospitalizations. Fewer total rates. Higher rates among young people. Increases in some stroke risk factors.

And not all of those issues are answered - just speculation about, for example, why young people are seeing an increase in strokes.

One obvious item is stroke prevention, especially for those changeable lifestyle behaviors that could really reduce risk. Check out this piece about different populations and stroke prevention:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

You likely know about strokes, but share this with people who aren't so familiar

May is Stroke Awareness Month - which I haven't been emphasizing in the last few years, instead focusing on stroke awareness regardless of month - so you'll probably see similar articles in your local media.

Nonetheless, it's a good reference about what you need to know about surviving or preventing a stroke:
The key to minimizing the effects of a stroke is to learn to identify the symptoms. There’s a quick mnemonic that can help with that: FAST.
F: face droop
A: arm weakness
S: speech difficulty
T: time to call 911

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Not all stroke rehab facilities are equal: What's best for you?

Earlier this week, I posted an item about avoiding readmission to a hospital.

Now, here's a story about a facility that might help with that, too - in-patient facilities better for stroke rehab:
The report warned that as systems of care evolve in response to healthcare reform, "post-acute care and rehabilitation are often considered a costly area of care to be trimmed" with little recognition of their impact on patient outcomes.
"Stroke rehab is not considered very sexy, but it turns out that it can have a huge impact on quality of life and function," Winstein told MedPage Today.
The writing group noted that stroke rehabilitation services, as currently delivered in the U.S., are broad and "highly heterogeneous, varying in the type of care settings used; in the duration, intensity, and type of interventions delivered; and in the degree of involvement of specific medical, nursing and other rehabilitation specialists."
"The intensity of rehabilitation care varies widely, depending on the setting, with the most intensive rehabilitation care provided in (certified) inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), followed by skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), which provide 'subacute' rehabilitation," the group wrote.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Finally, we're paying attention to staying out of the hospital

It's just been lately that the American health system has really paid attention to readmission - that is, you have a stroke, stay in the hospital for likely a brief time, sent home with little or no follow-up, and you wind up back in the hospital.

Many reasons, but the bottom line is that for a long time, you were left to your own devices, with little or no instruction.

Now, the industry is paying attention to avoid that cycle. Check out the recent story how a stroke care transition program has cut readmission:
"A lot of stroke programs are doing follow-up phone calls to patients," Bushnell said, "but our data shows that phone calls alone are not good enough to reduce readmissions. It is really important for patients to be engaged in their own stroke recovery, and part of that involves coming to clinic and making sure they get all the services they need."

Thursday, May 05, 2016

'All you who hope in the Lord'

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Hope can be a hard-to-find commodity.

Maybe that's not the right way to say it. Hope is marketed every day, everywhere. You see hope offered in infomercials: Look better! Feel better! Fix a body part! Buy this thing! We can make you happy!

Any of this really hope? I'll let you answer that question for yourself.

Have you ever been in the market for hope, real hope? I'm guessing that's part of the human condition - experienced by anyone and everyone. We feel a natural need for hope. We strive for hope. We look for hope.

The Psalm writer was giving a path to real, living hope - remembering the gifts and the wonders God freely offer.

And one of the gifts: Hope. Not infomercial hope, but the real deal.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Call it "mini" but don't call it unimportant

Just because something is called "mini" doesn't mean it's not big.

A mini-stroke - or transient ischemic attack, TIA for short - is often a sign for a devastating stroke to follow. So take it seriously.

I posted a similar item last week, but it's worth repeating - quick, aggressive treatment for TIAs could slash major stroke risk by 50 percent:
According to the researchers, sending a person to the hospital after a “mini-stroke,” even if the muscle weakness or slurring of speech lasted a mere few seconds, could reduce the risk of major strokes by as much as 50 percent. TIAs, after all, are oftentimes a sign that a more serious, possibly fatal stroke may be coming in days, or even a few hours.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mini-stroke can lead to a big problem - take it seriously

Take mini-strokes seriously - that's the bottom line of some interesting research. Read more how aggressive treatment of "mini-strokes" lowers risk for major stroke:
Better and faster use of secondary stroke prevention methods after transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, helps reduce risk of additional strokes and death, according to researchers involved with an international study.
With the most aggressive care available, researchers at 21 sites around the world cut in half the risk of a second stroke among participants in the five-year study, which is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
So don't just sit there - take action if you see the symptoms!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

If you or someone you know seems lonely - here's an excuse to reach out

This blog has touched on solitude before, and there's more research that lonely, isolated people may be prone to heart disease, stroke:
Social isolation raised that risk by about 30 percent, exerting the same level of influence on heart health as risk factors such as anxiety and job stress, the British review found.
"Addressing loneliness and social isolation could have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of ill health and mortality worldwide," said lead researcher Nicole Valtorta, a research fellow in the department of health sciences at the University of York.