Category Archives: stroke

Obesity is common, serious and costly – CDC

I have written about the dangers of obesity almost more times than I can remember, yet it remains a nightmare for us. As we tell our children over and over – actions have consequences. When will we learn that everything we eat and drink becomes a part of us. We don’t just get to enjoy the taste with no physical effects afterwards.

    • More than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity. [Read CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief PDF-704KB]
    • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. [Read guidelines]
    • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who have obesity were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. [Read summary]

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Obesity affects some groups more than others Continue reading

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Filed under childhood obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, heart, heart disease, obesity, stroke, Type 2 diabetes

Catastrophic strokes can follow mini strokes

I wrote a post several years ago on what you need to know about stroke. Here is the opening graf: “The National Stroke Association (NSA) says, “A stroke or heart attack of the brain occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain.  When either of these things happens, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.”

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Patients suffer stroke-like symptoms such as paralysis on one side or difficulty speaking. While symptoms typically go away in less than a few minutes and there’s no brain damage, TIAs often are followed by severe strokes.

TIAs are an “ominous prelude to an impending cerebrovascular catastrophe, but also the opportunity to prevent a disabling event,” Loyola Medicine neurologists Camilo R. Gomez, MD, Michael J. Schneck, MD and José Biller, MD report in the journal F1000 Research. However, the neurologists add that rapid evaluation and treatment can reduce the risk of stroke by about 80 percent during the dangerous first week following a TIA.

Most strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to a part of the brain. TIAs also are caused by blood clots, but the clots quickly dissolve or are dislodged. However, there’s a 5 to 10 percent risk of suffering a stroke during the 30 days following a TIA, and 15 to 20 percent of ischemic stroke patients report having experienced an earlier TIA.

A TIA requires urgent management, but there is controversy about how to accomplish this: Should patients be temporarily hospitalized, which may be safer, or should they be evaluated on an outpatient basis, which may be more convenient and cost effective? The existing literature is inconclusive. “Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages,” the Loyola neurologists wrote. Continue reading

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Heart disease and brain health linked – Harvard

I have written time and again about the link between exercise and brain health. The Harvard Heart Letter has a nice post on how heart disease and brain health are tied together.

“Just like in the rest of your body, advancing years can take a toll on your brain function. Much of this slowing down is predictable and can be chalked up to normal aging. However, when thinking skills become increasingly fuzzy and forgetfulness gets to be a way of life, an early form of dementia known as mild cognitive impairment may be setting in,” so writes Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter.

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“Often, the first reaction is to attribute these changes to the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease. But blood flow problems may be to blame, as well. “An estimated one-third of all cases of dementia, including those identified as Alzheimer’s, can be attributed to vascular factors,” says Dr. Albert Hofman, chair of the department of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Continue reading

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Filed under blood pressure, coronary heart disease, Exercise, exercise and brain health, exercise benefits, heart, heart disease, heart health brain health, stroke

Poor sleep may raise risk for irregular heart rhythms – AHA

Regular readers know that I feel strongly that sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health. You can check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA):
• Poor sleep – even if you don’t have sleep apnea – may be linked to higher risks of developing an irregular heartbeat.
• In addition, getting less rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep may also be linked to higher atrial fibrillation risks.

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Disruptions in sleep may be raising your risks of an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation (AF), according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016. Continue reading

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Filed under heart problems, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke

9 Ways Eating Bananas Can Benefit Your Health

I have a banana in my smoothie every morning. It’s one of the excellent foods.

For more on bananas check out these posts:

20 Health benefits of bananas – Infographic

7 Amazing facts about bananas – Infographic

More good reasons to eat bananas – Infographic

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Tony

Our Better Health

If you’re like many people, no trip to the grocery store is complete until you add a bunch of bananas to your cart.

Bananas are inexpensive, tasty, and versatile, but the best reason to eat them is their health benefits. Read on to learn how this curvy, yellow wonder can help you stay well.

1. Tames Your Tummy
If you’ve ever had the stomach flu or food poisoning, you’ve probably been told to eat the BRAT diet during recovery. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Bananas are included in the acronym for good reason. They are bland enough to pass through the digestive tract easily, their potassium helps replenish lost electrolytes, and their fiber adds bulk to your stool to help calm diarrhea.

Some pregnant women report that bananas help ease morning sickness. It makes sense since bananas are high in vitamin B-6. One medium banana provides about…

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Incidence of most fatal type of stroke decreasing — thanks to a decrease in smoking?

Finally, it appears that there is some good news on the health front in regard to less people smoking.

A new study indicates that Finland’s national tobacco policies seem to be radically reducing the incidence of subarachnoid haemorrhage, the most fatal form of stroke.

Previously it was thought that in Finland approximately a thousand people suffer subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) every year – most of them adults of working age. Up to half of those afflicted die within a year. Subarachnoid haemorrhage is typically caused by a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, which leads to a sudden increase in the intracranial pressure. Smoking is a key risk factor for SAH.

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A Finnish study published in the journal Neurology looked at changes in the incidence of subarachnoid haemorrhage over a period of 15 years (1998-2012), and these were contrasted with changes in the prevalence of smoking. The results indicated that the number of people afflicted with SAH was nearly half of the previously assumed figure and that the number was in rapid decline, a trend which was particularly apparent in younger generations. Continue reading

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7 things you can do to prevent a stroke – Harvard

Regardless of your age or family history, a stroke doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are some ways to protect yourself starting today, Harvard Health Publications said.

But , what is a stroke?

A stroke is a “brain attack.”  It can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost, according to the National Stroke Association.

Stroke by the Numbers
•    Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.
    •    A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
    •    Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.
    •    Every 4 minutes someone dies from stroke.
    •    Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.
    •    Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.

Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.

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You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. “Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.”

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today, before a stroke has the chance to strike. Continue reading

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Low Vitamin D Predicts More Severe Strokes, Poor Health Post-stroke

“It’s too early to draw firm conclusions from our small study, and patients should discuss the need for vitamin D supplementation with their physician,” Henninger said. “However, the results do provide the impetus for further rigorous investigations into the association of vitamin D status and stroke severity. If our findings are replicated, the next logical step may be to test whether supplementation can protect patients at high risk for stroke.”

As you can see by the posts I have written about Vitamin D previously, it is a rock star of the vitamin world:
How Good is Vitamin D For You? – Infographic
Link Between Vitamin D and Dementia Risk Confirmed
Study Suggests Association between Vitamin D Levels and Cognitive Function
Vitamin D Improves Mood and Blood Pressure in Women with Diabetes
Vitamin D and Your Body – Harvard.

Tony

Cooking with Kathy Man

Stroke patients with low vitamin D levels were found to be more likely than those with normal vitamin D levels to suffer severe strokes and have poor health months after stroke, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2015.

Low vitamin D has been associated in past studies with neurovascular injury (damage to the major blood vessels supplying the brain, brainstem, and upper spinal cord).

“Many of the people we consider at high risk for developing stroke have low vitamin D levels. Understanding the link between stroke severity and vitamin D status will help us determine if we should treat vitamin D deficiency in these high-risk patients,” said Nils Henninger, M.D., senior study author and assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worchester.

Henninger and colleagues studied whether low blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a marker of vitamin D…

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Ability to Balance on One Leg May Reflect Brain Health and Stroke Risk

Researchers found that the inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was associated with cerebral small vessel disease, namely small infarctions without symptoms such as lacunar infarction and microbleeds.

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Struggling to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer was linked to an increased risk for small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced cognitive function in otherwise healthy people with no clinical symptoms, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

“Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health,” said Yasuharu Tabara, Ph.D., lead study author and associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan. “Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline.”

The study consisted of 841 women and 546 men, average age of 67. To measure one-leg standing time, participants stood with their eyes open and raised one leg. The maximum time for keeping the…

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Diets High in Fruit, Vegetables, Whole Grains and Nuts Lower Stroke Risk

Mediterranean-style diets are generally low in dairy products and DASH-style diets emphasize low-fat dairy products.

Avoiding secondhand smoke also lowers stroke and heart attack risks, according to the guidelines.

Cooking with Kathy Man

Eating Mediterranean or DASH-style diets, regularly engaging in physical activity and keeping your blood pressure under control can lower your risk of a first-time stroke, according to updated AHA/ASA guideline published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

“We have a huge opportunity to improve how we prevent new strokes, because risk factors that can be changed or controlled — especially high blood pressure — account for 90 percent of strokes,” said James Meschia, M.D., lead author of the study and professor and chairman of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

The updated guidelines recommend these tips to lower risk:

  • Eat a Mediterranean or DASH-style diet, supplemented with nuts.
  • Monitor high blood pressure at home with a cuff device.
  • Keep pre-hypertension from becoming high blood pressure by making lifestyle changes such as getting more physical activity, eating a healthy diet and managing your weight.
  • Reduce the amount of…

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Potassium-rich Foods Cut Stroke, Death Risks Among Older Women

“Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal women’s risk of stroke, but also death.”

Cooking with Kathy Man

Postmenopausal women who eat foods higher in potassium are less likely to have strokes and die than women who eat less potassium-rich foods, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

“Previous studies have shown that potassium consumption may lower blood pressure. But whether potassium intake could prevent stroke or death wasn’t clear,” said Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., study senior author and distinguished university professor emerita, department of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY.

“Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal women’s risk of stroke, but also death.”

Researchers studied 90,137 postmenopausal women, ages 50 to 79, for an average 11 years. They looked at how much potassium the women consumed, as well as if they had strokes, including ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes…

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U.K. Salt Reduction Drives Down Stroke and Heart Disease Deaths

The British government has successfully educated individuals about reducing their sodium consumption and has aggressively encouraged companies to market less-salty foods, the Center for Science in the Public Interest reported.

And according to the findings published in BMJ Open, those efforts are likely partly responsible for plummeting rates of heart attack and stroke deaths in the United Kingdom.

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It’s a shame that while the British government has actively prompted progress on the part of industry and consumers, our Food and Drug Administration dithers, waiting in vain for more than 40 years for companies to voluntarily cut salt.  It’s a strategy that has plainly failed, as Americans are still getting more than twice as much sodium as they should, mostly from processed and restaurant foods.

Almost four years ago the Institute of Medicine called on the FDA to set mandatory limits on the levels of sodium allowed in various categories of food.  Doing that would have been the single most effective (and inexpensive) thing the FDA could have done to save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of health care dollars.  Halving Americans’ sodium intake could save 100,000 lives annually.  Because the Obama Administration hasn’t done anything, America is unnecessarily digging about 100,000 early graves every year, each to be filled with a heart attack or stroke victim.

I want to clarify that I am against government telling us we can’t have diet sodas over 16 ounces like in New York, but it seems the government can make some rules on healthy amounts of certain ingredients like salt and sugar which have proven harmful to us humans. As the CSPI release said, we are digging 100,000 early graves a year. Talk about Nero fiddling while Rome burns. We have the FDA fiddling while citizens who don’t pay attention to their health are dying at a terrible rate.

Salt consumption has been a subject of numerous posts in this blog. Here are a few:

How Much is Too Much Salt?

Some Sneaky Salt Statistics

Why is Walmart Cutting Sugar, Fat and Salt in its Foods?

Where Does All the Salt in our Diets Come From?

Tony

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Filed under aging, Center for Science in the Public Interest, heart, heart disease, heart problems, salt, sodium, stroke, Weight, weight control, weight loss

Consistent Blood Pressure Control May Cut Rate of Second Stroke in Half

Changes in care management may be needed to ensure patients maintain consistent control of blood pressure. Rather than check blood pressure during clinic visits only, it should done regularly, perhaps at home by machines that can remotely transmit the data, she said.

Cooking with Kathy Man

Stroke survivors who consistently control their blood pressure may reduce the likelihood of a second stroke by more than half, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

For the study, researchers analyzed the results from the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention (VISP) trial, which enrolled 3,680 ischemic stroke patients ages 35 and older in 1996-2003. Ischemic strokes are caused by a clot or other blockage in a blood vessel supplying the brain. Participants had been tested for several risk factors, including blood pressure levels at baseline, a month after the start of the study, at six months and every six months thereafter up to 24 months.

Researchers determined results after controlling for age, sex and prior history of stroke, heart disease and other factors. Blood pressure was considered “controlled” at 140 mmHg over 90 mmHg or lower.

Researchers found:

  • Fewer than 30 percent of stroke survivors…

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Drinking Alcohol Several Times a Week Increases the Risk of Stroke Mortality

The study showed that people who consume alcohol more frequently than twice a week have over a threefold risk of stroke mortality than people who do not consume alcohol at all. The risk of stroke mortality is elevated irrespective of the amount of alcohol consumed.

Cooking with Kathy Man

Consuming alcohol more frequently than twice a week increases the risk of stroke mortality in men, according to a study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. The results show that the effects of alcohol are not limited to the amount consumed, but also the frequency of drinking matters. The results were published in Acta Neurologica Scandinavica.

Excessive consumption of alcohol is associated with a variety of different diseases. The relationship between alcohol consumption and ischaemic stroke shows a J curve pattern, which means that in people who are moderate consumers of alcohol, the risk of stroke is the lowest, while heavy consumption of alcohol increases the risk of stroke. The risk of cerebral haemorrhage increases linearly as the consumption of alcohol increases: the higher the amount of alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of stroke. In addition to alcohol, other significant risk factors for stroke include elevated…

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Blood Pressure Diet May Also Cut Stroke Risk – Kidney Foundation

It’s wonderful to learn that there can be further good effects to healthy eating. So, the latest announcement from the National Kidney Foundation was most welcome.

“A diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, moderate in low-fat dairy products, and low in animal proteins, refined grains and sweets may reduce risk for developing kidney stones, according to a new study published in the March issue of the National Kidney Foundation’s American Journal of Kidney Diseases. March is National Kidney Month and the National Kidney Foundation encourages people to learn about the kidneys and associated conditions, including kidney stones.

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“Researchers found that compared with following a low-oxalate diet – the frequently prescribed diet for kidney stone prevention and treatment – a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-style diet may be more effective at reducing urinary risk markers for calcium oxalate kidney stone formation, the most common type of kidney stone. Oxalate is naturally found in high levels in many foods with other nutritional value including: beets, navy beans, bulgur, kale, almonds, sweet potatoes, rice bran, rhubarb and spinach.

“According to the National Kidney Foundation, most kidney stones are formed when oxalate binds to calcium while urine is produced by the kidneys. Eating and drinking calcium and oxalate-rich foods together during a meal may be a better approach than limiting oxalate entirely. This is because oxalate and calcium are more likely to bind to one another in the stomach and intestines before the kidneys begin processing, making it less likely that kidney stones will form.

“Previous studies have recommended that those with kidney stones follow a low-oxalate diet to reduce one’s chances of forming another stone. However, many high oxalate foods are healthful and a low-oxalate diet can be very restrictive. The DASH diet reflects a more balanced diet and as a result may be easier and more realistic to follow long-term,” said Dr. Kerry Willis, Senior Vice President for Scientific Activities at the National Kidney Foundation.”

Tony

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Should you take your own blood pressure at home?

I had never really considered this question before, but after listening to Dr. Mark Huffman of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine speak to the Northwestern Memorial Healthy Transitions Program®, I am going to do it.

I wrote up high blood pressure, or hypertension, for the blog two years ago.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say, “High blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer” because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure. That’s why it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly.”

Just to give you some ballpark figures, Normal blood pressure (BP) is 120/80, systolic/diastolic. Prehypertensive is 120-139 over 80-89. Stage one hypertension is 140-159 over 90 – 99. Stage two hypertension reads 160 -179 over 100 – 109.

Modifiable causes of high BP or hypertension include smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, dietary salt, alcohol consumption and stress.

Causes of high BP over which we have no control include older age, genetics, family history of high BP, chronic kidney disease and adrenal and thyroid disorders.

The CDC recommends, “There are several things that you can do to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range—
• Get your blood pressure checked regularly.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Be physically active.
• Limit alcohol use.
• Don’t smoke.
• Prevent or treat diabetes

Some 67 million American adults (31%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 in every 3 American adults.  Anyone, including children, can develop high blood pressure. It greatly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.” Emphasis mine.

Dr. Huffman said that home blood pressure measurements are increasingly preferred as adjuncts to those taken in the doctor’s office.

“Automatic sphygmomanometers work well. Omron, upper arm cuffs are preferred and are often covered by insurance. ” He recommended checking out Amazon where they are available for $45 to $65.

I liked very much that the CDC recommendations were all lifestyle ones and did not include any taking of drugs. Obviously, this assumes that our blood pressure is in the normal range. Perhaps if we get our lifestyle in synch with these recommendations, our blood pressure won’t go up and we won’t need to go the drug route – ever.

I am arranging to get a blood pressure monitor and plan to take mine regularly at home and furnish my doctor with the numbers the next time I see her.

What do you think?

Tony

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Filed under aging, blood pressure, heart, heart disease, heart problems, stroke