Getting an annual flu shot may be associated with a lower risk of stroke, according to a study published in the September 7, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Studies have shown that getting the flu increases your risk of having a stroke, but research is still being collected on whether getting the flu vaccine can help protect against a stroke,” said study author Francisco J. de Abajo, MD, MPH, PhD, of the University of Alcalá in Madrid, Spain. “This observational study suggests that those who have a flu shot have a lower risk of stroke. To determine whether this is due to a protective effect of the vaccine itself or to other factors, more research is needed.”
Gene variants associated with a person’s blood type may be linked to their risk of early stroke, according to a new meta-analysis published in the August 31, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The meta-analysis included all available data from genetic studies that included young adult ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain.
“Non-O blood types have previously been linked to a risk of early stroke, but the findings of our meta-analysis showed a stronger link between these blood types with early stroke compared to late stroke, and in linking risk mostly to blood type A,” said study author Braxton D. Mitchell, PhD, MPH, of University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. “Specifically, our meta-analysis suggests that gene variants tied to blood types A and O represent nearly all of those genetically linked with early stroke. People with these gene variants may be more likely to develop blood clots, which can lead to stroke.”
Julie Stillman was 55 years old when a blood vessel in her brain suddenly burst. The hemorrhagic stroke left her unable to compose a simple sentence – a hard blow for a woman who built a career in book publishing.
It also robbed her of the ability to speak properly. But not the ability to sing.
Now 69, Stillman is one of several dozen stroke and brain injury survivors who lift their voices in joy as part of the Aphasia Choir of Vermont. There are a handful of such choirs springing up around the world, giving stroke survivors and people living with dementia or other brain injuries a chance to tap into one of the few means of communication left to them.
“To hear that clarity and volume, it’s like magic,” said Stillman’s husband, Jeff Nagle, whose last fluid conversation with his wife took place 14 years ago on the phone, an hour before he found her on the floor of their home. “It’s amazing to see this happen.”
A new study adds to the questions surrounding the safety of calcium supplements.
Previous research has suggested this widely used dietary supplement may increase the risk of heart attack, and now data is linking calcium supplements to dementia in women who have had a stroke or who have white matter disease.
“This relationship was focused on women with a history of stroke or white matter disease, which is an indicator of some vascular disease in the brain, those women were at an increased risk of having dementia,” said Irene Katzan, M.D., a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic.
Researchers studied 700 dementia-free women between the ages of 70 and 92. The women were followed for 5 years and calcium supplement use and dementia diagnosis were observed throughout the study.
Results show that women with a history of stroke who took calcium supplements had nearly seven-times the increased risk of developing dementia.
Women who took calcium supplements and had white matter disease were three-times as likely to develop dementia.
However, women without a history of stroke or white matter disease had no increased dementia risk when taking calcium supplements, according to the research.
Talk to a provider
Dr. Katzan said more research is needed and this study alone shouldn’t cause anyone to immediately stop taking their calcium supplements, but it should prompt a discussion with your healthcare provider.
“This is a good time to talk to your doctor about what supplements you should be taking, what is best in my specific instance, given my risk factors and my medical history,” said Dr. Katzan.
Replacing table salt with a reduced-sodium, added-potassium ‘salt substitute’ is cost-saving and prevents death and disease in people at high risk of having a stroke, according to new research. Salt substitution has been shown to reduce stroke risk by 14 percent and the number of strokes and heart attacks combined by 13 percent, but this new analysis revealed that the costs saved as a result outweighed the cost of the intervention.
A seated form of a traditional martial art can help stroke survivors regain strength and balance and help relieve depression symptoms as well as or better than standard post-stroke exercise programs, according to a new study from China.
The study’s authors said it was the first randomized controlled trial to analyze the ability of a modified tai chi program to help stroke survivors recover. The research appeared Thursday in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
Tai chi combines deep breathing with a series of slow, careful movements of the hands, arms, neck, legs and core. A 2014 scientific statement about activity and exercise for stroke survivors highlights tai chi and yoga as flexibility and muscle strength training programs that can improve balance, quality of life and mental health while reducing the fear of falling.
Stroke survivors may have a higher risk of developing depression or another mood disorder within the first year, according to new research that compared their risk to the general public as well as people who survived a heart attack.
Past research shows depression is common after stroke, affecting nearly one-third of survivors. For the new study, researchers wanted to dig deeper and see how stroke impacts other mental disorders.
The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, focused on 86,111 people in Danish hospitals from 2004 to 2018 with no history of mental health disorders who had a stroke.
It found that stroke survivors had a 15% risk of developing a mood disorder, primarily depression, within the first year. This risk corresponded to an approximately 2.3-fold increased risk compared with matched individuals from the Danish general population. Stroke survivors also had an increased risk for other mental health problems, including substance abuse disorders and stress and anxiety disorders, as well as brain disorders such as dementia. But these conditions were less common.
Middle-aged men who are anxious and worry more may be at greater biological risk for developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, also called cardiometabolic disease, as they get older, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.
“While the participants were primarily white men, our findings indicate higher levels of anxiousness or worry among men are linked to biological processes that may give rise to heart disease and metabolic conditions, and these associations may be present much earlier in life than is commonly appreciated – potentially during childhood or young adulthood,” said Lewina Lee, Ph.D., lead author of the study, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, and an investigator and clinical psychologist at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, both in Boston.
Not everyone can sing like a nightingale. When some of us try to carry a tune, we sound like Bob Dylan imitating Elmer Fudd.
Still, no matter the sound, experts say we should limber up our larynxes more often. According to a growing body of research, bursting into song is good for both your body and your brain.
“Singing a song that we know by ourself or with others triggers the reward system in the brain and releases dopamine that makes us feel better,” said Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, who studies brain imaging and music at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
One great thing about singing is you can reap the benefits anytime, anywhere. When COVID-19 sent society into lockdown mode last year, people around the globe belted out songs from their balconies to relieve stress and anxiety.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re singing in a public group or you’re alone in the car singing (along) with Michael Jackson. It’s all beneficial,” said Kay Norton, a professor of musicology at Arizona State University who studies the healing power of music.
Nobody knows exactly when humans first started singing on a regular basis. But in recent decades, scientists have studied its benefits in a range of areas, from relieving pain to minimizing snoring and helping improve posture and muscle tension.
Engineers at the University of California San Diego developed a soft and stretchy ultrasound patch that can be worn on the skin to monitor blood flow through major arteries and veins deep inside a person’s body.
Knowing how fast and how much blood flows through a patient’s blood vessels is important because it can help clinicians diagnose various cardiovascular conditions, including blood clots; heart valve problems; poor circulation in the limbs; or blockages in the arteries that could lead to strokes or heart attacks.
The new ultrasound patch developed at UC San Diego can continuously monitor blood flow—as well as blood pressure and heart function—in real time. Wearing such a device could make it easier to identify cardiovascular problems early on.
A team led by Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, reported the patch in a paper published July 16 in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
The patch can be worn on the neck or chest. What’s special about the patch is that it can sense and measure cardiovascular signals as deep as 14 centimeters inside the body in a non-invasive manner. And it can do so with high accuracy.
“This type of wearable device can give you a more comprehensive, more accurate picture of what’s going on in deep tissues and critical organs like the heart and the brain, all from the surface of the skin,” said Xu.
It ought to be a no-brainer, so to speak: Research has pinpointed seven ways people can achieve ideal heart and brain health. And – bonus – if Americans did those things, they also could help prevent many other chronic illnesses, According to the American Heart Association News.
But most people don’t, at least not consistently. What’s stopping them?
“Most of these steps require a great deal of self-regulation and self-control,” said Dolores Albarracin, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s not just getting one thing done, like going to get a vaccine, where you can do it and forget about it for a year.”
Volumes of research point to at least seven behaviors, called Life’s Simple 7, that can dramatically lower the burden of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range have the potential to collectively wipe out a vast majority of heart disease and stroke and prevent or delay a significant number of dementias.
Increased consumption of flavanols – a group of molecules occurring naturally in fruit and vegetables – could protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart disease and thrombosis, according to new research.
Researchers have discovered that blood vessels were able to function better during mental stress when people were given a cocoa drink containing high levels of flavanols than when drinking a non-flavanol enriched drink.
A thin membrane of cells lining the heart and blood vessels, when functioning efficiently the endothelium helps to reduce the risk of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, tumor growth, thrombosis, and severe viral infectious diseases. We know that mental stress can have a negative effect on blood vessel function.
A UK research team from the University of Birmingham examined the effects of cocoa flavanols on stress-induced changes on vascular function – publishing their findings in Nutrients.
Lead author, Dr. Catarina Rendeiro, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, explains: “We found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa can be an effective dietary strategy to reduce temporary impairments in endothelial function following mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes”.
“Flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruit and vegetables. By utilizing the known cardiovascular benefits of these compounds during periods of acute vascular vulnerability (such as stress) we can offer improved guidance to people about how to make the most of their dietary choices during stressful periods.”
In a randomized study, conducted by postgraduate student Rosalind Baynham, a group of healthy men drank a high-flavanol cocoa beverage 90 minutes before completing an eight-minute mental stress task.
The researchers measured forearm blood flow and cardiovascular activity at rest and during stress and assessed functioning of the blood vessels up to 90 min post stress – discovering that blood vessel function was less impaired when the participants drank high-flavanol cocoa. The researchers also discovered that flavanols improve blood flow during stress.
Stress is highly prevalent in today’s society and has been linked with both psychological and physical health. Mental stress induces immediate increases in heart rate and blood pressure (BP) in healthy adults and also results in temporary impairments in the function of arteries even after the episode of stress has ceased.
Single episodes of stress have been shown to increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events and the impact of stress on the blood vessels has been suggested to contribute to these stress-induced cardiovascular events. Indeed, previous research by Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-investigator on this study, has shown that people at risk for cardiovascular disease show poorer vascular responses to acute stress.
“Our findings are significant for everyday diet, given that the daily dosage administered could be achieved by consuming a variety of foods rich in flavanols – particularly apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, pulses, green tea and unprocessed cocoa. This has important implications for measures to protect the blood vessels of those individuals who are more vulnerable to the effects of mental stress,” commented Dr. Rendeiro.
Dental cavities could significantly increase the risk of a life-threatening stroke from bleeding in the brain, according to new research.
Past studies have shown a link between gum infection and stroke, but few studies have looked into what role dental cavities might play. In the new study, researchers looked specifically at cavities and intracerebral stroke, which occur when an artery in the brain bursts and floods surrounding tissue with blood.
Researchers looked at data from 6,506 people without stroke, and then followed them for 30 years. For the first 15 years, those who developed cavities had a slightly higher risk for stroke from brain bleed, but their risk shot up dramatically in the next 15 years.
In the second half of the study period, people with cavities had 4.5 times higher risk of a stroke from brain bleed than those without cavities, after adjusting for age, gender, race and high blood pressure.
New research found patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had a higher risk of stroke, compared with patients who had similar infectious conditions such as influenza and sepsis in prior studies. Those who had an ischemic stroke were more likely to be older, male, Black race, or have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) compared with other COVID-19 patients, according to late-breaking science presented today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2021. The meeting was held virtually, March 17-19, 2021 and is a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health.
For this analysis, researchers accessed the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry to investigate stroke risk among patients hospitalized for COVID-19, their demographic characteristics, medical histories and in-hospital survival. The COVID-19 Registry data pulled for this study included more than 20,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.S. between January and November 2020.
“These findings suggest that COVID-19 may increase the risk for stroke, though the exact mechanism for this is still unknown,” said lead study author Saate S. Shakil, M.D., a cardiology fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle. “As the pandemic continues, we are finding that coronavirus is not just a respiratory illness, but a vascular disease that can affect many organ systems.”
Two hundred eighty-one people (1.4%) in the COVID-19 CVD Registry had a stroke confirmed by diagnostic imaging during hospitalization. Of these, 148 patients (52.7%) experienced ischemic stroke; 7 patients (2.5%) had transient ischemic attack (TIA); and 127 patients (45.2%) experienced a bleeding stroke or unspecified type of stroke.
Music-based interventions have become a core ingredient of effective neurorehabilitation in the past 20 years thanks to the growing body of knowledge. In this theme issue of Neurorehabilitation, experts in the field highlight some of the current critical gaps in clinical applications that have been less thoroughly investigated, such as post-stroke cognition, traumatic brain injury, and autism and specific learning disabilities.
Neurologic Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions by a credentialed professional. Research in the 1990s showed for the first time how musical-rhythmic stimuli can improve mobility in stroke and Parkinson’s disease patients. We now know that music-based interventions can effectively address a wide range of impairments in sensorimotor, speech/language, and cognitive functions.
While most people think of strokes affecting the brain, they can also affect the eye. Central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) is a rare form of acute ischemic stroke that occurs when blood flow is blocked to the main artery of the eye. It typically causes painless, immediate vision loss in the impacted eye, with fewer than 20% of people regaining functional vision in that eye.
The American Heart Association published a new scientific statement, “Management of Central Retinal Artery Occlusion,” in Stroke, an American Heart Association journal. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Cerebrovascular Section affirms the educational benefit of the scientific statement, and it has been endorsed by the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Quality of Care Secretariat and the American Academy of Optometry.