Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Stroke patients can keep recovering, even after a year

One takeaway from a recent story about stroke recovery shows something to remember - "it's highly unethical to say nothing can be done after 12 months" in recovery. Personally, it took me years to get back to my almost-100 percent recovery. Stroke recovery can be incremental.

Now, will horses and music definitely help? One small study doesn't prove that it does, but it's worth studying further. Read how long-term stroke survivors believe they do better with horse, music therapy:
A small Swedish study of stroke patients finds that activities such as horseback riding and rhythm-and-music therapy can help them feel like they're recovering faster, even if their stroke occurred years earlier.
After 12 weeks of twice-weekly lessons, 56 percent in the riding group and 38 percent in the music group said they had experienced meaningful recovery compared to 17 percent who were not given any extra activity. The self-reported benefit persisted six months after the lessons stopped.
Coauthor Dr. Michael Nilsson told Reuters Health by phone that the results counter the attitude that stroke patients can't improve if a year has passed since their brain damage occurred.
"For a big, big, big group of stroke survivors, it's highly unethical to say nothing can be done after 12 months," said Nilsson, who directs the Hunter Medical Research Institute in New South Wales, Australia. That attitude can "kill the motivation for further rehabilitation."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Finding the right words - the challenge of aphasia

June is Aphasia Awareness Month. And until 19 years ago, I had no idea what the word meant.

But I know now. It's a language disorder, leaving some people unable to speak. Others can speak but struggle to find the right words.

That was me. I still have the list of words I said to my wife after my 1998 stroke: towrith, rice, torithe. And I was trying to say the name of a city I'd visited not long before -- Jonesboro. Through time and with the help of a speech therapist, family and friends, I'm almost 100 percent back.

I can still remember frequently swapping pronouns -- referring to a male as "she" or a female as "he," a common occurrence. Or leaving out small words. Or using the wrong tense -- such as saying "worked" instead of "working."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Helicopters delivering doctors for stroke patients

Most of us have likely seen helicopters carrying patients to hospitals. Now, there's the idea that flying doctors to stroke victims may improve outcomes:
Transporting doctors to stroke victims could be one viable way of bringing the procedure to more patients, Hui believes. He has been flown to Suburban Hospital to treat three patients this year. Early indications are that it is less expensive and faster than transporting a patient to the doctor.
In a case study of one those incidents printed in the Journal of Neurointerventional Surgery earlier this month, it took Hui 77 minutes to fly to the hospital and complete the procedure. The helicopter took off for the 19-minute flight from Hopkins to Montgomery County at 12:24 p.m. At 1:07 p.m. Hui inserted the catheter into the patient and he completed the surgery by 1:47 p.m.
The full process took about the same amount of time as it would have if Hui had performed the procedure on a patient at Johns Hopkins because doctors at Suburban prepped the patient before Hui arrived to the hospital. It likely would have taken longer to prepare the patient to be transported to Hopkins, let alone travel time and preparation and surgery once there, he said.
Although the study wasn't designed to look at the health outcome of the patient, studies have shown that timing is crucial when treating stroke patients because patients lose brain capacity with each minute they are not treated. Stroke victims do best when they are treated as quickly as possible — ideally in 100 minutes or less.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Here's another story of 'A Stroke of Faith'

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
-Psalm 27:14
Mark Moore learned this lesson the hard way. Ten years ago he was hit by back-to-back strokes that could have taken his life. He spent a month in a coma and wake up to find his life forever changed. He re-learned how to walk.

His biggest challenges? One was impatience - recovery doesn’t happen overnight. “It’s incremental … you have to be patient,” he said in an interview earlier this week, coinciding with the release of his new book, “A Stroke of Faith: A Stroke Survivor’s Story of a Second Chance of Living a Life of Significance.” Just to be clear, the book isn’t directly related to this blog with a similar name.

Then again, it’s semi-related because like me, Mark had a stroke at a relatively young age, nearly died and struggled to recover. Also like me, he's finished races during his recovery. A year after his stroke, he finished a 5K (that's 3.1 miles) and went on to run a 10K.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Up to 1 out of 3 of you have had a stroke - perhaps without knowing

Have you ever had a stroke? Perhaps you had one but didn't recognize it. Read this link how 1 in 3 Americans may have had warning stroke without knowing it:
 ... [A]bout 35 percent of Americans experience symptoms of a warning stroke. Yet only about 3 percent get immediate medical attention.
Most adults who had at least one sign of a "mini" stroke - a temporary blockage also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) - waited or rested until symptoms had faded instead of calling 911 right away, according to the research from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA).
"Ignoring any stroke sign could be a deadly mistake," said ASA chair Dr. Mitch Elkind, in a news release from the organization.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May is Stroke Awareness Month: How aware are you?

May is Stroke Awareness Month. It's important to be aware of stroke signs, what to do and how to prevent strokes - and not only in a single month.

Why? A stroke can strike anyone. Strokes do not respect age, social status or wealth. My own stroke happened in May 1998. Outwardly, I was healthy - a longtime distance runner - and under 40.

I received a chart showing basic information about strokes, signs and prevention from Crouse Hospital of Syracuse, N.Y., and wanted to share its good information for this month. It's not an ad as far as I'm concerned, but rather information for you to retain and share.

Click on the chart and check it out.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Emoji app - can it help aphasia patients?

Back in the pre-emoji era, one of the tools I used to get my language skills back was an educational toy called GeoSafari. The company still makes more modern versions of this toy.

Fast forward almost 19 years, and here's some new technology to help people with aphasia, a common result of a stroke. Read how Samsung’s new app uses emojis to help people with language disorders communicate:
Created by Samsung Electronics Italia (the company’s Italian subsidiary) and speech therapist Francesca Polini, Wemogee replaces text phrases with emoji combinations and can be used as a messaging app or in face-to-face interactions. It supports English and Italian and will be available for Android on April 28, with an iOS version slated for future release.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unsettling numbers: Stroke rates and young people

This topic really hits home for me. I was under 40 when mine happened. Despite that, there's a general assumption that strokes happen only to the elderly.

But yet another study shows stroke rates appear to be rising steadily in young adults:
"Most people think that having a stroke is something that only happens to older people, but the impact of stroke is significant — it is uniquely complex in younger adults, in midst of careers, serving as wage earners and caregivers, who may suffer disability that can impact their lives and the lives of family members and loved ones," George said.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

'We are renewed day by day'

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Every so often, my body reminds me that I'm no longer in my 20s. Or 30s. Or 40s. You get the picture.

Now we're in the middle of Holy Week, the week between Psalm Sunday - the celebration of Jesus' entry to Jerusalem - and Easter Sunday - the celebration of his resurrection and the ultimate promise of what Paul is saying in the verse above.

So consider this verse this week. Despite age, health issues, anything that troubles you, there's that promise of renewal.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

This millionaire’s stroke led him to a life of philanthropy

Interesting thoughts from a stroke survivor, a millionaire whose stroke led him to a life of philanthropy:
The stroke changed you physically, but how did it change your outlook?
I was scared. A stroke is very difficult because it’s physical and mental. It’s an attack on the brain. But I had a lot of support: my wonderful wife and a lot of friends. But I also had to turn to my faith. When I was sitting there that night after I came out of the coma, I didn’t ask God to let me go back to work or play basketball again. All I said was: Give me the strength to deal with whatever you send my way. That was different for me.
Had you been very religious before that?
My view back then was that Sunday was God’s day, but the other six days I was in control. This was the first time that I realized that God was in control every day. I would not have recovered had I not relinquished control.
The point is not to imitate him in detail - we're not all millionaires - but to do what we can. I need that reminder.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Many at risk for stroke don’t get anti-clotting drugs

Stroke prevention can save a life. Yet, many at risk for stroke don’t get anti-clotting drugs:
More than four in five stroke patients with a history of heart rhythm problems didn’t get any blood thinners, or didn’t take enough to help prevent a stroke before they had one, a U.S. study suggests.
Most strokes occur when a clot blocks an artery carrying blood to the brain, known as an ischemic stroke. The study focused on more than 94,000 stroke patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular rapid heartbeat that can lead to stroke, heart failure and chronic fatigue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

'Something else going on' in pot connection

You've likely seen similar news before. Click here for the most recent.  And while the research leaves many unanswered questions, it's worth considering how pot use is tied to higher odds for stroke:
New research analyzing millions of U.S. medical records suggests that marijuana use raises an adult's risk of stroke and heart failure.
The study couldn't prove cause-and-effect, but the researchers said they tried to account for other heart risk factors.
"Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients," explained lead researcher Dr. Aditi Kalla, a cardiologist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.
"That leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity or diet-related cardiovascular side effects," Kalla said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology (ACC).

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Exercise: It's good for your brain

Do what exercise you can - it's good for the brain.

If you've read this blog before, you likely know I'm a longtime distance runner. Not everyone can do that, I realize. But almost anyone can exercise at some level of motion. And recent research reiterates that for stroke survivors, exercise is good for the brain:
The findings bolster what experts have long believed: Exercise can aid stroke recovery in multiple ways.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Too often, too many people don't get the right treatment

The clot-busting drug tPA has been available now for more than 20 years. But still, too many stroke victims don't get the drug:
Every year, patients were 11 percent more likely to be treated by tPA, even though across the entire period of time only 3.8 percent of total patients got the clot-busting drug, researchers reported.
The team found certain types of patients were less likely to receive tPA:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Alexa - tell me how to save a life

Alexa has moved into our home.

That is, a couple of Amazon Echo Dots occupy the place where I live. So far, I've told Alexa (the name of the voice) to tell me jokes, give me news and weather information, play radio stations, play music and more.

Very handy devices, all voice-controlled.

And now, Alexa can tell you the steps for CPR and warning signs of heart attack and stroke:
Alexa, the friendly voice of the Amazon Echo, will for the first time offer CPR instructions and describe the warning signs of heart attack and stroke.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Snowstorms and strokes - strange association

The people in my town, Columbia, Missouri, can thank me for the lack of snow lately. A couple of years ago on Black Friday, I bought a snow blower online, from my recliner. That's my kind of Black Friday shopping.

But it's been mostly idle since - not that much snow. Which is fine. I'm not a fan.

So how does this tie in with strokes? It seems that snowstorms may bring blizzards health troubles, including strokes:
Hospital admissions for heart-related ailments -- heart attack, chest pain and stroke -- were 23 percent higher two days after a storm.
The study authors believe their analysis is the first to examine hospital admissions over the course of several days after low, moderate and high snowfalls.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Story of a clinical trial provides serious food for thought

A still from the video of my PFO closure.
Click here to watch the video.
Something to think about: Clinical trials are necessary but can be thought-provoking.

The Houston Chronicle recently published a look at a clinical trial to find answers about closing a heart defect called a patent foramen ovale, or a PFO. It's potentially a stroke-causing defect. It was the probable cause of my stroke in 1998. It got patched up in 2007. You can click here to read about it.

But even though mine was fixed almost 10 years ago, it didn't end the controversy over whether the procedure - done in a cardiac catheterization lab - was really better than treating the defect with medication. One of my personal choices involved not taking blood-thinning warfarin - click here to read about it - for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Undiagnosed and untreated - what's your blood pressure?

Last week, the focus was global hypertension problems. Now, in a North American study, we learn that high blood pressure is often undiagnosed, untreated:
For the study, the researchers measured the blood pressure of almost 1,100 volunteers. The measurements were taken at mobile clinics that the researchers had set up at shopping malls, workplaces, hospitals and community centers in a large city.
The study revealed that 50 percent of the participants were unaware they had high blood pressure. Of these people, 2 percent were at very high risk for health complications.
The findings were published online Jan. 5 in the American Journal of Hypertension.
"What is particularly significant about this study is that a surprisingly large number of participants exhibited some type of hypertensive urgency or emergency," study author Dr. Grant Pierce said in a journal news release. Pierce is executive director of research at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.
Most of the people with high blood pressure weren't being treated even if they had been diagnosed. The study authors suggested that either these people didn't fully understand their condition, or they didn't understand the health consequences associated with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes. Taking it seriously might save a life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The world is experiencing a high blood pressure increase

High blood pressure - hypertension - is the leading risk factor for strokes.

So the news is a little frightening - high blood pressure is increasing worldwide:
"There are almost 900 million people in the world with hypertension, and there are almost 3.5 billion people with elevated blood pressure that doesn't quite meet the definition of hypertension," said study lead author Christopher Murray. He directs the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.
"Blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death and disability in the world," Murray said.
Blood pressure is made up of two numbers. The top number, called systolic pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when blood is being pumped from the heart. The bottom number, the diastolic pressure, measures pressure between heartbeats. Blood pressure is expressed in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
The study authors said that even systolic blood pressure within what is considered a normal range -- less than 120/80 mm Hg, according to the American Heart Association -- can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
It's important to pay attention to your blood pressure and if needed, work with your health professionals to control it.

(Photo from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Top posts visited in 2016

Stroke of Faith has been around since December 2005 - more than 11 years now.

I ran numbers recently for the top five most-read postings in 2016. Just one was actually posted that year - the rest are a collection of oldies but goodies starting with:

1. There's a hole in my heart 

2. Stroke signs: Remember the first three letters, S. T. R.

3. 'Do not be anxious about anything'

4. 'Be our strength every morning'

5. How I learned about aphasia and intelligence - the hard way

The top most-read posting is about the likely cause of my stroke - a patent foramen ovale, or a hole between the two upper chambers of my heart. The second is a quick read about stroke signs. Numbers 3 and 4 are Scripture-based postings, and No. 5, the only one posted in 2016, reminds us all that aphasia effects language - but doesn't reduce intelligence.