As more Canadians survive strokes, more live with stroke-induced disabilities

A new study suggests the number of Canadians living with stroke-induced disabilities will rise substantially over the next couple of decades.

More people are surviving strokes — a good news story about what can be a devastating and even fatal attack on the brain.

But the study authors say that with an aging and expanding population, this country will face a significant increase in the number of people who need stroke rehabilitation and other forms of post-stroke support.

The study estimates that there were about 405,000 people living with a stroke disability in this country in 2013 — nearly 30 per cent more than was previously estimated.

And it says that number could increase to between 654,000 and 726,000 by 2038.

Dr. Mark Bayley, who is one of the authors, says more research is needed to find ways to help people overcome or cope with the after-effects of stroke.

“The good news is that more people are surviving their stroke,” says Bayley, the medical director of the brain and spinal cord rehabilitation program at the Toronto Rehab Institute.

“And therefore we’re concerned that we need to be ready for how those people are going to need to be supported and also cared for and how we can optimize their quality of life while they’re recovering from their stroke or after their stroke.”

Read more at the Edmonton Journal.

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Former Indianapolis Colts cheerleader suffers stroke, recovers with help from squad: ‘She is a fighter’

A former Indianapolis Colts cheerleader who suffered a severe stroke has made a miracle recovery with the rallying cries of her squad.

Tessa David had a stroke in her sleep on Dec. 1, rendering the popular 28-year-old professional dancer and model partially paralyzed.

“Sixty percent of my brain was injured,” she told Fox 59. “I can’t read, I can’t do numbers, math has no meaning to me. “Everything went dizzy on me.”

The blond beauty was left paralyzed on her right side. She struggles to speak because her “brain is still rewiring.”

But she has been making remarkable progress, according to inspiring video updates she’s been posting on Facebook .

“I work hard in therapy. I need your help to make me better,” David pleads to supporters while fighting back tears. “I’m working so hard at it, so hard.”

Many have answered her desperate call, including the entire Colts cheerleading squad who spent countless nights beside her hospital bed.

You can read more of this great story that also points to the power and necessity of a great support system when trying to recover from a stroke at the Daily News.

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Doctors refused to believe I’d had a stroke at 17

WHEN 17-year-old Bethany Sinfield woke in the middle of the night unable to swallow she staggered from her bedroom to wake her parents.

“I was really panicking, my head was throbbing and I was losing all feeling down the left side of my body. Also the left side of my face was noticeably drooping,” says Bethany, now 19, who lives with her parents Malcolm and Christine and sister Sian, 22, in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

“I didn’t know what was happening to me it was all so scary.”

Bethany’s mum called an ambulance which arrived 15 minutes later but by this stage Bethany was unable to walk or talk.

“As I was carried into the ambulance I vomited and the paramedics started asking me whether I’d been taking drugs.

“There was an assumption that because I was a teenager my problems must be drug or alcohol-related but I’ve never taken drugs and drink only moderately,” says Bethany.

At accident and emergency doctors appeared baffled by her symptoms and suspected meningitis, an infection of the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord.

They ordered a lumbar puncture to get a sample of her spinal fluid but the results were negative. “Despite my slurred speech and paralysis they did no tests for stroke, where either a blood clot or bleeding caused by a leaking blood vessel restricts blood flow to the brain,” says Bethany.

“Crucially I was not given an MRI scan, the only test that can confirm a diagnosis of stroke.

“I was kept in overnight and fell unconscious. When I awoke the next morning I was completely paralysed and couldn’t speak at all.

“I was absolutely terrified and cried my eyes out because I felt so powerless and frustrated.”

Bethany was eventually seen by a neurologist who diagnosed a suspected stroke and arranged for her to be transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge later in the day.

“The MRI scan confirmed I’d suffered a stroke in my brain stem caused by a blood clot, called an ischaemic stroke, the most common sort.

“By this stage however it was too late for me to have thrombolysis, the clot-busting drug treatment that might have dispersed the clot and prevented the brain damage I suffered.”

Bethany was left “locked in” for the next week unable to speak or move.

“It was nightmarish. I could hear people talking about me and my condition but had no way of letting them know that inside my brain I was fine, it was just my body that wouldn’t do what I wanted it to,” recalls Bethany.

“It took me four months before I could communicate with anyone after speech therapy and physiotherapy at London’s Northwick Park Hospital.

“I wasn’t expected ever to fully recover. I was in hospital for nine months.”

Bethany is one of 1,000 people under 30 in the UK who suffer a stroke every year including children and babies.

Read more about Bethany’s story at Express.

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In Brooklyn, stroke patients learn to speak again–in two languages

Aphasia patients, often elderly and carrying the burdens of life, have seen their lives changed dramatically–in many ways, for the worse. So how did one rehabilitation group, deep in Brooklyn, become the happiest place in New York City?

Read this great story in Quartz about stroke victims relearning to speak in their native language and English.

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Stroke Risk Increased After Shingles Infection

New evidence suggests that shingles, which can occur in individuals who previously had chicken pox, may be associated with an increased risk of stroke in the weeks to months following a shingles episode.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, which is the result of the same virus (varicella zoster virus) that causes chicken pox, affects 1 million Americans every year. Before a vaccine for shingles became available, one-third of Americans were affected with shingles in their lifetime. Shingles occurs when the dormant virus reactivates in someone who had chicken pox in the past.

The infection targets the nervous system, and can have both short-term and long-term health effects, including the hallmark painful shingles rash that may be followed by persistent nerve-related pain that can last for months to years after the rash resolves. Now, new evidence suggests that the shingles may also be associated with an increased risk of stroke in the weeks after the rash emerges.

In a study released yesterday in Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analyzed medical records from millions of general practice patients in the United Kingdom from 1987 to 2012 and identified more than 6500 individuals with both shingles and arterial stroke during this period. When they looked at the time points at which strokes occurred in relation to the shingles episodes, they found that the rate of stroke was significantly higher during the first 6 months following a shingles episode compared with before a shingles episode (approximately 63% higher during the first month, 42% higher during the second and third months, and 23% higher during the fourth through sixth months.)

Read more here at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Reduce Your Stroke Risk

Follow these 4 steps to reduce your stroke risk.

Step One: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
– Consider diets rich in fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, such as the Mediterranean or DASH diet. The latter stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Step Two: Know Your Numbers
– Optimal Blood Pressure: 120/80
– Optimal Cholesterol: Below 200 mg/dL
– Optimal Blood Sugar: Below 5.7%

Step Three: Eat Smaller Portions
– At a restaurant, portions equal 3-5 healthy servings, ask for a to-go-box and put half of your meal in it before starting.
– Eat slower, it takes time for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full.
– Reduce sodium (salt) intake to less than 2,300 mg/day.

Step Four: Participate in Physical Activity
– Try and get at least 40 minutes of physical activity per day, three to four times per week.
– Can’t get in 40 minutes at once, break it into smaller 10 minute workouts.
– For moderate exercise try brisk walking, tennis, gardening or mopping the floors.

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Unhealthy lifestyle can knock 23 years off lifespan

The true cost of an unhealthy lifestyle of little exercise, poor diet and smoking has been quantified by scientists who found that it can reduce lifespan by 23 years.

People who develop largely preventable conditions like heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes are cutting their life short by decades, a 50 year study has shown.

It is estimated that around 80 per cent of cases could be prevented by keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking or drinking too much.

For a man in his 40s, suffering from all three conditions reduces life by 23 years. It means that a 40-year-old’s life expectacy would drop from 78 to just 55. Likewise someone in their 60s could lose 15 years, meaning a 60-year-old man might have just three years of life left.

The cost is far greater than smoking, which is thought to limit lifespan by 10 years.

Read more here at telegraph.co.uk.

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Stroke Tied to Long-Term Mental Decline

TUESDAY, July 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Stroke victims often experience an immediate deterioration in their ability to think and reason. But a new study shows that a stroke also can have a more insidious, long-term effect on your mental processes.

People who suffer a stroke are more likely to experience an accelerated decline in their thinking and planning skills for at least six years following their medical emergency, according to a report published July 7 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For every year following a stroke, patients have a 23 percent greater risk of suffering additional mental loss, compared to how they would have fared if they never had a stroke, said lead author Dr. Deborah Levine, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and a staff physician with the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System.

“We found that stroke survivors had a significantly faster rate of developing new cognitive [thinking] impairment following their stroke, compared to their pre-stroke rates,” Levine said.

Read more about this research at webmd.com here.

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New Stroke Stats Released

Despite significant declines in stroke mortality in recent years, stroke continues to be a leading cause of death in the United States, with persistent sociodemographic and geographic disparities, according to the latest Data Brief from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stroke remained the fourth leading cause of death among adults aged 45 years and older during the years 2010 to 2012 and the fifth leading cause in 2013.

“Consequently, there is an ongoing need to monitor the current magnitude and patterns of stroke mortality,” write the report authors, led by Deborah D. Ingram, PhD, Office of Analysis and Epidemiology, NCHS.

The report describes current variations in stroke mortality by age, race and Hispanic origin, median household income, urbanization level of county of residence, and residence outside or inside the Stroke Belt.

Variation by Race

The age-adjusted stroke death rate for non-Hispanic black men aged 45 years and older (154.8 deaths per 100,000 population) was 54% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white men, 67% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander men, and 68% higher than the rate for Hispanic men of the same age.

The rate for non-Hispanic black women (131.4 per 100,000 population) was 30% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white women, 58% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander women, and 61% higher than the rate for Hispanic women of the same age.

Non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander and Hispanic men and women had the lowest age-adjusted stroke death rates. Non-Hispanic white men and women aged 45 years and older had similar age-adjusted stroke death rates.

More than a quarter of stroke deaths among non-Hispanic black people aged 45 years and older (28.6%) occurred among those in the youngest age group (45 to 64 years). By contrast, the portion of stroke deaths in this age group among other race-ethnicity groups ranged from one tenth among non-Hispanic white people to less than a quarter among Hispanic people.

The portion of stroke deaths in the older age group (85 years and older) was largest among non-Hispanic white people (47.4%) and lowest among non-Hispanic black people (24.9%).

The age-adjusted stroke death rate for those aged 45 years and older decreased as median household income increased. The rate for people residing in counties in the lowest median household income quartile was 32% higher than the rate for those residing in counties in the highest quartile (126.9 vs 96.1 deaths per 100,000 population).

Among those aged 45 years and older, age-adjusted stroke death rates were highest in nonmetropolitan counties and lowest in large central and large fringe metropolitan counties (those in suburbs of large cities).

Non-Hispanic black and white people aged 45 years and older residing inside the Stroke Belt (which in this report includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) experienced excess stroke mortality compared with their counterparts outside the Stroke Belt (22% and 21% higher mortality).

The age-adjusted stroke death rate for non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islanders residing inside the Stroke Belt did not differ from the rate for those residing outside the Stroke Belt.

In contrast to other population groups, Hispanic people living inside the Stroke Belt had substantially lower stroke mortality than Hispanic people living outside the Stroke Belt (50.8 compared with 87.6 deaths per 100,000 population).

You can read more at medscape.com.

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Secondhand smoke increases stroke risk by 30 percent for nonsmokers

Nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke each year. Stroke is responsible for one out of every 19 deaths in the U.S. and it is a leading cause of disability. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that secondhand smoke (SHS) increases the risk of stroke by about 30 percent for nonsmokers.

Using data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, a national, population-based, investigating events and mortality endpoints among white (55 percent) and African American (45 percent) adults aged greater than 45 years, investigators found that even after adjustment for other stroke factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, the 30 percent risk for nonsmokers remained.

Read more about the methodology here on medicalxpress.com.

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