2 Keys to Preventing Recurrent Strokes

High blood pressure can put you at risk for having another stroke. So can depression. According to a new study, though, the risk skyrockets to more than 80 percent for stroke survivors experiencing both. Take these precautions to ensure you don’t fall into either category.

You can read more here at StrokeSmart.

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Surviving Locked-in Syndrome

On May 20, 2009, minutes after his wife had left for work, Richard Marsh realized he was having a stroke. What he didn’t realize was the stroke was only the beginning.

Unable To Move At All

When paramedics arrived at his house, Marsh was having difficulty speaking and maintaining his balance. By the time he got to the hospital, he could already feel paralysis creeping into his legs. He woke up in intensive care, hooked to a breathing machine and with “tubes all over.”

Although Marsh could feel and understand everything when he woke up, he couldn’t move a muscle. “The only thing I could do was blink, and that was just barely,” he says.

Locked Inside Himself

Marsh was experiencing Locked-In Syndrome, a rare condition that affects roughly one percent of all people who have a stroke, leaving them unable to move any muscles except their eyelids. There is no treatment or cure, and few ever recover any significant function. In most cases, Locked-In Syndrome is fatal—roughly 90 percent die within four months.

While he was trapped inside his uncooperative body, Marsh was completely aware of what was going on. “Your mind works perfectly,” he says. “Your body doesn’t.”

Read more at strokesmart.org.

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Is Your Heart Older Than You Are?

Three out of four U.S. adults have a predicted “heart age” that is older than they are, putting them at increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, government researchers said on Tuesday.

“Your heart may be older than you are. For most adults in the United States, it is,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released the first study to provide population-level estimates of heart age nationwide.

The CDC calculates heart age based on cardiovascular risk factors including smoking, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

“It gives a simple risk calculation for having or dying of heart attack or stroke,” Frieden said.

For the report, CDC researchers gathered used risk factor data collected from every U.S. state as well as information from a large, ongoing heart study.

Three out of four U.S. adults have a predicted “heart age” that is older than they are, putting them at increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, government researchers said on Tuesday.

“Your heart may be older than you are. For most adults in the United States, it is,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released the first study to provide population-level estimates of heart age nationwide.

The CDC calculates heart age based on cardiovascular risk factors including smoking, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

“It gives a simple risk calculation for having or dying of heart attack or stroke,” Frieden said.

For the report, CDC researchers gathered used risk factor data collected from every U.S. state as well as information from a large, ongoing heart study.

The report also showed significant differences based on gender and other factors.

For example, the average heart age for adult men is 8 years older than their chronological age, compared to 5 years older for women.

The study found disparities between heart age and chronological age for all racial and ethnic groups, but they were highest among African-American men and women, whose heart age was 11 years older than their actual age for both genders.

The study also found geographical differences in average heart age, with individuals in the Southern United States having higher heart ages than other regions of the country.

States with the highest percentage of adults with a heart age 5 years or more older than their actual age included Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama. Those with the lowest percentage of adults with heart ages that exceeded their actual age by more than 5 years included Utah, Colorado, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

Although individuals may be concerned to learn that their heart age was years older than their actual age, Frieden said the numbers can be improved by reducing one or two cardiovascular risk factors, such as stopping smoking or controlling high blood pressure.

“It is never too late to turn back the clock on your heart age, Frieden said.

Read more at Yahoo Health.

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What Women Don’t Know About Stroke Could Kill Them (Op-Ed)

Dr. Diana Greene-Chandos, neurologist and director of neuroscience critical care at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, contributed this column to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Too few women know the female-specific risks and symptoms of a stroke, and it can have devastating consequences. I’ve seen it for years in my practice as a neurologist, and a recent national survey only underscores the same troubling truth.

The survey, commissioned and released by our hospital, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, went to 1,000 women nationwide and found that only 11 percent could correctly identify pregnancy, lupus, migraine headaches, oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy as female-specific risks for stroke.

That’s an alarming statistic given the vast number of women who have a connection to one or more of those risk factors. Unfortunately, many women think of stroke as a “men’s health issue,” but it is the third-highest cause of death among females in the United States, and claims more than 80,000 women each year, according to the National Stroke Association.

Spotting the symptoms

The symptoms of a stroke can be different for women than men, though few females in the survey were able to pinpoint some of those differences. Only 10 percent of women, for example, knew that females can experience hiccups and atypical chest pain during a stroke.

Awareness of particular early warning signs is important during a stroke because many women might assume they have indigestion and delay seeking medical attention. This can have serious consequences. Only within the first three hours after the onset of stroke is emergency treatment with clot-busting drugs a viable option. Women often miss this window because they don’t know what early warning signs to watch for.

The signs of stroke in women include:

  • Hiccups
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Body numbness, with one side being more numb than the other

Some symptoms, however, are the same for both women and men. These include:

  • Facial droop or uneven smile
  • Weakness that involves the arm and leg on the same side of the body
  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding

If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t delay treatment. Call 911 immediately.

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Service Dog Saves Stroke Survivor’s Life Twice

Diamond was one day from being put down when Denna Williams found her at the animal shelter, but the stroke survivor says she’s the one that’s really been rescued. The 9-year-old Alaskan Samoa has saved her life twice and has given her purpose.

In 1999, Williams suffered a massive stroke that left her completely paralyzed on her left side, and wiped her memory clean to the point where she couldn’t even remember her name, she says. To complicate matters, she was two months pregnant.

Although she gave birth to a healthy daughter, the retired military veteran faced other challenges. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and issues with mobility and balance. She also had trouble with daily activities, including getting dressed. Not to mention, Williams was now a single mom of four.

The day Williams met Diamond in 2004 changed both of their lives. Working with a certified dog trainer, Diamond learned to remind Williams to take her medications, assist with daily living tasks, and call for help. Twice, that training has saved Williams’ life when she suffered seizures and Diamond’s barking alerted others.

She also inspired Williams to continue recovering. With Diamond’s help, Williams has moved from a wheelchair to full mobility, and she has been able to replace negative feelings like anger, fear, and helplessness with more positive ones. Williams has more confidence and a new purpose after becoming a certified dog trainer herself.

Read more of this story and about the benefits of service dogs at strokesmart.com.

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Major study finds working longer hours increases stroke risk

The likely toll of long working hours is revealed in a major new study which shows that employees still at their desks into the evening run an increased risk of stroke – and the longer the hours they put in, the higher the risk.

The largest study conducted on the issue, carried out in three continents and led by scientists at University College London, found that those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 33% increased risk of stroke compared with those who work a 35- to 40-hour week. They also have a 13% increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The findings will confirm the assumptions of many that a long-hours culture, in which people work from early in the morning until well into the evening, with work also intruding into weekends, is potentially harmful to health.

The researchers, publishing their findings in the Lancet medical journal, say they cannot state categorically that long hours cause people to have strokes – but their study shows that there is a link, and it gets stronger as thehours people put in get longer.

“Sudden death from overwork is often caused by stroke and is believed to result from a repetitive triggering of the stress response,” they write. “Behavioural mechanisms, such as physical inactivity, might also link long working hours and stroke; a hypothesis supported by evidence of an increased risk of incident stroke in individuals who sit for long periods at work.

“Physical inactivity can increase the risk of stroke through various biological mechanisms and heavy alcohol consumption – a risk factor for all types of stroke – might be a contributing factor because employees working long hours seem to be slightly more prone to risky drinking than are those who work standard hours.”

People who work long hours are also more likely to ignore the warning signs, they say – leading to delays in getting treatment.

Read more at The Guardian.

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Faces of Stroke

Stroke.org features the ‘Faces of Stroke’ where stroke sufferers, caregivers, and healthcare professionals can share their stories.

Here is an excerpt from one of the stories:

I encountered a mini stroke in the gym while weight lifting on 9 November 2013. I didn’t think it was possible because of my age and fitness level. I realized largest that a stroke has no rhyme or reason for choosing is victems.

The week of November 9th I hadn’t felt very well but attributed a series of dizzy spells and nausea to anemia. On Saturday 9 November I was surprised that I awoke feeling great. Since I had been sick all week I decided to go to the gym to do light weight lifting. 5 minutes into my routine I was completely spent, panting, clamy, sweating and dizzy. I grabbed a bar next to me right before I went head first towards a pair of racked barbells. My right hand held on and I slid down to the floor hunched over.

Click here to read the rest of her story and the read others.

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Clot-busting nanocapsule could ‘revolutionize stroke and heart attack treatment’

A new study suggests that using nanocapsules to precisely target activated clotting platelets with clot-busting drugs could revolutionize the treatment of stroke and heart attack.

A report on the research, led by the University of Melbourne and the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia, is published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Joint senior author Christoph Hagemeyer, a professor in vascular biotechnology at Baker IDI, says their study shows what might be possible in the future from using nanotechnology to treat stroke and heart attack – a potentially revolutionary step.

For example, this life-saving treatment could be administered in emergencies by paramedics without the need for specialized equipment as is currently the case. Prof. Hagemeyer explains:

“We’ve created a nanocapsule that contains a clot-busting drug. The drug-loaded nanocapsule is coated with an antibody that specifically targets activated platelets, the cells that form blood clots.”

A blood clot or thrombosis is the result of a natural process of coagulation, where platelets and specialized molecules in the blood stick together to prevent excessive bleeding – at the site of an injury, for instance. One of the molecules that is central to this process is called thrombin.

Usually, the clots dissolve naturally after the injury has healed. However, sometimes clots can form inside blood vessels without an obvious injury, or they do not dissolve naturally.

If the clot forms in a coronary artery and blocks it, the result is a heart attack. If the clot forms in an artery supplying blood to the brain, it leads to a stroke.

Nanocapsule breaks open in response to thrombin at targeted clot site

The study uses nanotechnology to approach the problem of how to deliver clot-busting drugs to the precise location of the clot. This is important because if the drugs end up in the wrong place, they could trigger bleeding.

Nanotechnology is a new and growing field where scientists are developing new tools that manipulate nanometer-sized materials at the scale of individual cells.

In their paper, the researchers describe how they developed a nano-sized capsule that responds to thrombin by breaking open and releasing the enclosed clot-busting drug once it reaches the site of the blood clot.

“We are effectively hijacking the blood clotting system to initiate the removal of the blockage in the blood vessel,” Prof. Hagemeyer explains.

Every year, around 1.5 million Americans have a heart attack or stroke. In Australia, where the research was conducted, this figure can be up to 55,000. Co-senior author Frank Caruso, an engineering professor at Melbourne, notes that: “About half of the people who need a clot-busting drug can’t use the current treatments because the risk of serious bleeding is too high.”

He says that their targeted nanodrug, with its novel method of delivery, potentially offers a safer alternative with fewer side effects.

The National Heart Foundation of Australia, the Australian Research Council (ARC), and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded the study.

Read more at Medical News Today.

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Young girl’s blinding headaches blamed on periods actually a STROKE

Budding dancer Georgia Smith, 13, was suffering a bad headache in January. When the headache returned, accompanied by projectile vomiting, she visited the doctor.

They believed she was suffering from a migraine and the school girl was sent home with painkillers and anti-nausea tablets.

Speaking about the incident, Georgia’s mother Carol said: “Georgia and I both thought the headaches might be a sign of her period starting, but when that second headache didn’t go away, I started to worry.

“A few days later, she was still bad and throwing up constantly. She was projectile vomiting, covering everything from her bed to curtains.

“She kept saying, ‘Mummy, help me, please. My head, my head…’. It broke my heart. If I could have taken the pain for her, I would have.”

Just days after visiting the doctor, Georgia began feeling worse.

A dramatic turn of events left her in need of rounds of emergency surgery to relieve internal pressure on her brain after her monthly ‘migraines’ turned out to be much more serious.

“Georgia was in a state all weekend. On the Monday our GP organised an emergency appointment with a neurologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

“Two days later she was admitted to the hospital in agonising pain.”

The 43-year-old said: “The doctor took me off to a side-room and said Georgia needed a lumbar puncture and an MRI.

“When I heard the words ‘lumbar puncture’ I just collapsed. I fell apart. I rang Robert and told him to get to the hospital immediately.”

Georgia was exhausted, still being sick constantly and suffering a severe reaction to light.

“She was wearing her gold eye-mask with eyelashes on it all the time,” her mother continued. “She just couldn’t bear the light.

“As for the head pains, they were so bad I was doing breathing exercises with her, like you do with someone who is in labour.

“As soon as I saw the nurse after Georgia’s scan I knew it was bad news. I could tell by the look in her eyes as she walked towards me.

“She brought me to see a doctor who said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you this, but Georgia has contracted hydrocephalus. We also think she might have had a stroke.”

Young Georgia was taken for four-hour surgery to have an emergency drain put in her head which was a success but further operations were needed to install a permanent shunt into her brain to drain the fluid.

By the end of March after three MRI scans, four CT scans, two major brain operations and 19 days in hospital, Georgia was finally sent home to recover.

The news of Georgia’s condition came about just hours after it was revealed Cilla Black died from a stroke at the weekend.

Georgia had always wanted to be a dance teacher, but following her stay in hospital, she now wants to become a neurology nurse.

The youngster and her family support Sheffield Children’s Hospital Children’s Charity.

Gemma Bower, community fundraiser at The Children’s Hospital, said: “Getting back into dancing so soon after her treatment just shows how determined Georgia is.

“We are so pleased she chose to fundraise for us to thank the hospital for taking care of her, because every penny raised will help transform the hospital with world-class facilities.”

You can read more at Express.

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Don’t die of ignorance, urges stroke campaign

If you or a family member were having a stroke, would you know it?

That is the question the Irish Heart Foundation is asking during its annual Act FAST awareness week and the national stroke and heart charity says it is still crucial to ensure people know the signs of stroke.

Nearly 10,000 people suffer a stroke in Ireland annually according to the IHF, but only half of the population would call 999 (or 911 in the United States).

FAST stands for:

  • Face – has their face fallen on one side?
  • Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech – is their speech slurred?
  • Time – time to call 999 (or 911 in the United States) if you see any of these signs.

Supporting the charity’s efforts to spread the FAST message, Fair City actor Jim Bartley said: “Everyone — children and adults — needs to know the Irish Heart Foundation’s FAST message and most importantly, T — Time To Call 999 at the first sign of stroke.”

Jim, who plays Bela Doyle in the TV soap, knows all about the real thing, having suffered a stroke in 2011.

In 2012, for his courage in sharing his story and advocating the FAST message, Jim was awarded the IHF stroke ambassador award and has remained a keen ambassador for the charity since.

“I’ve had first-hand experience of stroke and I can tell you, I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. When it did, it came out of nowhere. A stroke happens so quickly. I am one of the lucky ones who got to hospital for treatment immediately.

“In today’s world, everyone has a mobile phone, even children, and we need to call 999 as soon as we suspect stroke. It could save the life of someone you know.”

You can read more at the Irish Examiner.

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