Posts Tagged ‘stroke’

Reducing the Risk for Stroke

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A Swedish study recently published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke found that adult men and women who ate low-fat dairy products had a reduced risk for stroke, compared to their counterparts who ate full-fat dairy products.

Nearly 75,000 adults, ages 45 to 83 years old, served as subjects for the study. At the beginning of the project, they were free of heart disease, stroke and cancer. They completed a dietary habit questionnaire, on which they described their food and drink consumption (for example, they might note consuming a particular item "never" or up to four servings per day).

Four thousand eighty nine strokes occurred among the subjects during a 10-year follow-up period. That is, 2409 in men and 1,680 in women. Most of the strokes were ischemic (3,159) whereas 583 were hemorrhagic and 347 were unspecified.

Compared to study participants who ate high-fat dairy foods, those who ate low-fat versions had a 13 percent lower risk for ischemic stroke and a 12 percent lower risk for stroke in general.

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A Rosy Outlook Is Healthful

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!


A recent analysis of more than 200 studies found that optimism appears to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. The Harvard School of Public Health review was published online in the journal Psychological Bulletin. Positive feelings were also associated with lower blood pressure, better blood-fat levels and desirable body weight.

In a news release, lead author Julia Boehm said, "The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction and happiness are associated with reduced risk . . . regardless of such factors as a person’s age, socioeconomic status, smoking status or body weight. For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50 percent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers."

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Sunlight and Stroke

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A recent exploratory study suggests that a lack of sunlight might increase one’s risk for stroke, according to a report by HealthDay, an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health:

The study’s co-author, Leslie McClure of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told HealthDay, "We hear a lot about how sun may be bad for us, in terms of skin cancer, for example. But this examination of sunlight exposure indicates that there may be some positive results related to being in the sun… The bottom line is that sunlight may be both a friend and a foe with respect to health."

Researchers analyzed data involving more than 30,000 black and white subjects over 45 years of age. Particular attention was paid to approximately 16,500 of those subjects, none of whom had a history of heart disease or stroke when they entered the project between the years of 2003 and 2007. All had undergone medical examinations, provided their health history, and disclosed places where they had resided in the past.

During a five-year follow-up period, 351 of the 16,500 participants had a stroke. That stroke incidence was compared with satellite and ground data regarding geographical monthly sunlight patterns going back as far as 15 years. Subjects in the bottom half of the sunlight exposure range had a 1.6 times higher risk for stroke, compared to those in the top half. Evidence also emerged that subjects living in colder climates had a greater risk for stroke.

Researchers stressed that this work is preliminary, not research that proves a cause and effect relationship between a lack of sunlight and increased stroke risk. Future investigations will seek to clarify the matter.

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Exercise and Stroke Recovery

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Old good news:Regular exercise can help lower one’s risk for stroke. New good news: Physically fit people who do have a stroke have a better chance of recovery. Spanish researchers have found that patients who were more physically active prior to a stroke responded much better to clot-busting medication, sustained less brain damage, and were more likely to regain their motor skills, compared to more sedentary stroke patients.This preliminary study, presented at a recent American Stroke Association meeting, was described by HealthDay, an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Researchers looked at 159 stroke patients (average age 68), who completed standard questionnaires relating their physical activity level before the stroke. They were divided into three physical activity levels: low, medium and high.

Patients in the highest activity level were more likely to have their blood flow restored within two hours of being given tPA, a drug for dissolving blood clots and reopening arteries. Sixty-two percent of the high-activity patients showed an early response to tPA, compared to 35 percent of the medium-activity patients and none of the low-activity patients.

Eighty-nine percent of the high-activity patients recovered their motor skills, compared to 69 percent of the medium-activity patients and only four percent of the low-activity patients.

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Robots Aiding Stroke Survivors

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

SFA author Jim Evans is a 42-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he describes promising innovation in the area of stroke rehabilitation.

DEAR JIM: My wife suffered a debilitating stroke last year at age 70 and still has trouble using her arms. She has made considerable progress working with her physical therapist, but many of her arm movements still seem awkward and unnatural. Do you have any advice to help her regain the normal use of her arms more quickly? WORRIED IN WACO

DEAR WORRIED: I would not want to contradict anything in your wife’s current physical therapy regimen because it seems to be working, albeit more slowly than you would like. It typically takes time to recover from a stroke, and recovery is usually measured in very small increments — especially after the first three months or so. Sometimes survivors do not recover substantially even with the best of love and medical attention, so prepare yourself for the long haul and relish even the slightest improvement, no matter how small.

But take heart, too, because researchers are constantly working to find new and better ways to help stroke survivors. Research appearing in BioMed Central’s open access Journal of euroEngineering and Rehabilitation shows some significant success using robots to help stroke survivors regain the normal use of their arms.

The researchers’ robot assists patients as they attempt to guide its "hand" in a figure-eight motion above a desk, pulling in the correct direction and resisting incorrect movements to a minutely controlled degree. This interactive assistance allows for alternating levels of help, encouraging patients to re-learn how to use their arms.

According to Elena Vergaro and a team of researchers from the University of Genoa, Italy, "Our preliminary results from this small group of patients suggest that the scheme is robust and promotes a statistically significant improvement in performance. Future large-scale controlled clinical trials should confirm that robot-assisted physiotherapy can allow functional achievements in activities of daily life."

"Stroke survivors," said Vergaro, "perform arm movements in abnormal ways, for example, by elevating the shoulder in order to lift the arm, or leaning forward with the torso instead of extending the elbow. Use of such incorrect patterns may limit their ability to achieve higher levels of movement ability, and may lead to repetitive use injuries. By demonstrating the correct movements, a robot can help the motor system of the subject learn to replicate the desired trajectory by experience."

Robots are being used in various other ways to help stroke survivors, too, so there are some exciting developments that may be available to your wife in the near future. In the meantime, please continue to be patient and supportive while your wife goes through this difficult and painstaking recovery.

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Depression and Stroke

Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Chinese researchers have analyzed the results of 17 studies (involving more than 200,000 subjects) that investigated the relationship between depression and stroke. They found that persons who had experienced depression at some time in their lives were approximately one-third more likely to have a stroke compared to persons who had not been depressed, according to a Reuters Health Information report.

Each of the 17 studies started out with subjects who hadn’t had a stroke, and then tracked them over time. Most of the studies showed a clear link between depression and increased stroke risk. Overall, the risk for stroke was 34 percent higher in persons with depression.

Even though the connection between depression and stroke was seen to be strong, it is not yet known whether depression actually causes an increase in stroke risk. That is an issue that will be addressed by further research. It may be that depression hampers an individual’s ability to follow healthful behaviors. Depression has also been linked to the development of both hypertension and diabetes. Future studies will tackle the question: Can successfully treating the symptoms of depression lead to a lower risk for stroke?

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Stroke Prevention

Friday, September 30th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Here’s more important news on the subject of avoiding stroke: Researchers have discovered that aggressive medical therapy could help prevent stroke, perhaps even more effectively than surgery involving balloon angioplasty and stent insertion. For details, see the following news release from the University of Florida Health Science Center in Gainesville.

To prevent a common type of stroke, intensive medical therapy could be better by itself than in combination with surgery that props open affected arteries. But it remains to be seen whether the apparent advantage will prove true over the long term.

The findings, from a national clinical trial conducted by University of Florida researchers and colleagues, were published online in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Against expectations, the short-term risk of stroke and related death was twice as high in some cases for patients whose diseased arteries were widened via balloon angioplasty and stent insertion, compared with patients who received medical therapy alone. Although the 30-day risk of stroke for the stenting patients is concerning, long-term results could be more favorable, the researchers said.

“Five years from now, who will be doing better — the patients who are being medically managed, or those who received a stent?” said study co-author Michael F. Waters, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Shands at UF Stroke Program, who along with Brian L. Hoh, M.D., the William Merz associate professor of neurological surgery in the College of Medicine, led the UF portion of the trial.

The study will have a substantial impact on clinical practice and research, the researchers said, because it is the first randomized stroke trial to pit stenting against nonsurgical treatment for symptomatic intracranial atherosclerosis, a type of stroke caused by artery blockage in the brain. Early results clearly show that intensive medical management is key to improving health, the researchers said.

“This study provides an answer to a longstanding question by physicians — what to do to prevent a devastating second stroke in a high-risk population. Although technological advances have brought intracranial stenting into practice, we have now learned that when tested in a large group this particular device did not lead to a better health outcome,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., deputy director of the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which funded the clinical trial.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. Almost 800,000 people a year have a new or recurring stroke, according to the American Heart Association. With higher than average rates of stroke and related deaths, parts of the southeastern U.S. are together termed the “Stroke Belt.”

Patients with the type of stroke known as symptomatic intracranial atherosclerosis do not respond well to existing treatments. One-quarter of those patients have another stroke within 12 months, and the risk of additional strokes continues in subsequent years. Doctors are unsure what the best course of treatment is.
To find out, the UF researchers and colleagues launched a clinical trial, nicknamed SAMMPRIS, at 50 sites around the country, including at the Medical University of South Carolina, the lead site. The study recruited 451 participants age 30 to 80 who had at least 70 percent narrowing in the arteries in the brain, and had experienced symptoms within the previous 30 days. UF recruited the second-highest number of patients among all sites, through its stroke program, which has been designated a Comprehensive Stroke Center by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Patients in one group were randomly assigned to receive intensive management involving smoking cessation and medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and blood-clot prevention. A second group of patients had that same medical treatment but also had balloon angioplasty and stent implantation into the affected brain artery to improve blood flow.

Almost 15 percent of patients who received stents had a stroke or died within 30 days of enrolling in the study, compared with just under 6 percent of patients in the medical therapy group. The stark difference between the groups persisted almost a year, by which time about 21 percent of patients who had received stents had had negative effects, compared with 12 percent in the medical group.

The researchers initially thought that patients who received stents would have fared better, given the successful use of similar procedures in clinical practice at the Shands at UF Stroke Program and other medical centers.

But the striking difference between the two patient groups prompted the study’s independent safety monitoring body to call off new recruitment. The researchers will, however, continue to monitor previously enrolled patients for the next two years.

It’s not unusual for surgical patients to have more complications at first, the researchers said. That’s because the invasiveness of surgery poses an inherent risk regardless of the illness being treated.

“The real question is, is there a benefit to patients over the long term,” said study co-author and co-principal investigator Hoh, who is an associate professor of radiology and neuroscience in the UF College of Medicine. “If you think about it, when people are concerned about stroke, it’s not just their first month that matters, so we’re waiting to see what the longer-term results will be.”

Over time, improvement of stent design and honing of surgical techniques could help improve outcomes for patients.
“This is certainly not the final say on managing this disease,” Waters said. “This is another piece of the puzzle that helps to guide our hand.”

The University of Florida Health Science Center – the most comprehensive academic health center in the Southeast – is dedicated to high-quality programs of education, research, patient care and public service. The Health Science Center encompasses the colleges of Dentistry, Public Health and Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine, as well as the Veterinary Hospitals and an academic campus in Jacksonville offering graduate education programs in dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. Patient care activities, under the banner UF&Shands, are provided through teaching hospitals and a network of clinics in Gainesville and Jacksonville. The Health Science Center also has a statewide presence through satellite medical, dental and nursing clinics staffed by UF health professionals; and affiliations with community-based health-care facilities stretching from Hialeah and Miami to the Florida Panhandle.

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Whey, a cheese by-product, has been shown to help “significantly reduce elevated blood pressure.”

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Researchers at Washington State University found that “daily doses of commonly available whey brought a more than six-point reduction in the average blood pressure of men and women with elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressures.” They noted that this level of reduction “can reduce cardiovascular disease and bring a 35 to 40 percent reduction in fatal strokes.” Lead researcher Susan Fluegel also noted that it is a low-cost supplement and that “whey protein has not been shown to be harmful in any way.” Please click below for a report from EurekAlerts

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Cardiac Patients Help Out Lucky Shelter Dogs

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Cardiac Friends is an outstanding program under way in Waukesha, Wisconsin, that enlists heart patients as volunteers to take dogs, who are housed at a local shelter, on regular walks healthful for both the human and canine participants. As reported by HealthDay News, the program is a partnership between the county’s Humane Animal Welfare Society and ProHealth Care (PHC), involving medically approved cardiac patients of PHC’s Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

These dog walkers have undergone procedures such as angioplasty, stent implantation and open heart surgery. Regular exercise with their canine companions lowers their risk for another cardiac event, helps control cholesterol levels, reduces blood pressure, helps counter depression and provides an opportunity to be needed and to make a difference.

From a shelter dog’s point of view, getting out of the kennel often to enjoy some physical recreation with a friendly, attentive visitor helps the animal stay mentally and physically fit while waiting for his or her new "forever home."

At this time, all of the patient-volunteers in the Cardiac Friends program (now approximately one year old) are men in their seventies. They visit the shelter three times per week, for an hour or longer, to get outdoors with their canine buddies, play fetch and walk along an enticing foot-path through an adjacent meadow.

Shelter coordinator Sara Falk told HealthDay News that the Cardiac Friends volunteers are among her favorites thanks to their reliability and since "… they are taking longer walks than a lot of the other walkers because they have fitness in mind."

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Walking and Stroke Risk

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A nearly 12-year follow-up study of 39,315 women (average age 54) has found that women who walked two or more hours per week had a significantly lower risk for stroke than non-walkers. Those who usually walked at a brisk pace also had a significantly lower risk than women who didn’t walk. The study’s results were recently published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Compared to women who did not walk:

  • Women who walked two or more hours per week had a 30 percent lower risk for any type of stroke.
  • Women who walked two or more hours per week had a 57 percent lower risk for hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke.
  • Women who usually walked more than two hours per week had a 21 percent lower risk for ischemic (clot-related) stroke.
  • Compared to women who did not walk, those who usually walked at a brisk pace had a:

  • 37 percent lower risk for any type of stroke.
  • 68 percent lower risk for hemorrhagic stroke.
  • 25 percent lower risk for ischemic stroke.
  • In the study, walking pace was categorized as:

  • Casual — about 2 mph,
  • Normal — 2 to 2.9 mph,
  • Brisk — 3 to 3.9 mph, and
  • Very brisk — 4 mph.
  • Lead researcher Jacob Sattelmair of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston offered this practical advice for pacing oneself: "If you cannot talk, slow down a bit. If you can sing, walk a bit faster."

    Forms of physical activity other than walking were also addressed by the study. The women who were most active in their leisure time activities were 17 percent less likely to have any type of stroke compared to the least active women. Sattelmair said, "Though the exact relationship among different types of physical activity and different stroke subtypes remains unclear, the results of this specific study indicate that walking, in particular, is associated with lower risk of stroke."

    It is still unclear how walking, specifically, affects stroke risk in men. For substantial health benefits, the AHA recommends that all adults perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination.

    To see the AHA news release on this study, click here.

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