Good News – Bad News

Posted by Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter

While progress is being made in reducing the number of stroke deaths, it seems that more people who experience these brain attacks have significant stroke risk factors, a new study reveals.

The rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, smoking and drug abuse have all been on the rise in stroke patients over recent years, the study authors said.

The study included over 900,000 people hospitalized for stroke between 2004 and 2014. Each year, prevalence of high blood pressure went up by 1 percent, diabetes rose by 2 percent, high cholesterol went up by 7 percent, smoking increased by 5 percent, and drug abuse jumped 7 percent, the researchers found.

“The risk of dying from a stroke has declined significantly, while at the same time the risk factors are increasing,” said researcher Dr. Ralph Sacco. He’s a professor of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“We are not exactly sure why these increases are occurring,” Sacco said.

It’s possible that doctors are getting better at diagnosing risk factors. Or certain lifestyle factors may play a role, Sacco suggested. These include obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking.

The increase of drug abuse among younger patients is especially concerning, he added.

Although the increases in risk factors were seen in all racial and ethnic groups, increases in high blood pressure among blacks and diabetes among Hispanics stood out, Sacco noted.

He stressed that patients need to know their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. “There are great medications that can be used to treat those conditions,” Sacco said.

“We need to go further in controlling risk factors, like diet and exercise,” he advised.
According to Dr. Salman Azhar, director of stroke at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, “The challenge now is to prevent strokes, and if they have had a stroke, trying to prevent a second stroke. This is where the importance of these risk factors comes in.”

The responsibility to reduce risk factors lies with patients, but also with the community, he continued.

“It’s up to communities to provide access to better food and places to exercise. We have a responsibility as a community and a health system,” Azhar said.

The 922,000 people included in the study had been hospitalized for an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain. These are the most common types of stroke.

The number of stroke patients who had one or more risk factors increased from 88 percent in 2004 to 95 percent in 2014, the findings showed.

For hospitalized stroke patients during the 10-year study period, high cholesterol rates more than doubled, from 29 percent to 59 percent, and the rate of diabetes went from 31 percent to 38 percent.

In addition, high blood pressure rates increased from 73 percent to 84 percent, and the prevalence of drug abuse doubled from 1.4 percent to 2.8 percent. Also, kidney failure increased each year by 13 percent, and plaque buildup in the carotid (neck) arteries rose by 6 percent each year, the investigators found.

Dr. David Katz is director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn. He said the improvement in stroke survival “suggests we are relying on advances in treatment while neglecting prevention.”

Katz, who is also president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, said, “Treating disease is never as good as preserving health and vitality. This study is a precautionary tale of the questionable and costly choices we seem to be making as a culture.”

The report was published online Oct. 11 in the journal Neurology.

Copyright © 2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Exercise key to stroke recovery…who knew?

Source: AAP
US researchers have found a person’s body mass index is not a factor in predicting their level of disability after stroke.
Regular exercise may not always prevent a stroke but it could determine how well a person recovers from one.

A Harvard University study published in journal Neurology found those who exercised “vigorously” three times a week or more prior to a stroke were more likely to be independent after the medical emergency compared to those who were inactive.

“We also found that a person’s body mass index (BMI) was not a factor in predicting their level of disability after stroke,” said lead author Dr Pamela Rist.

Body mass index is a measure of a person’s body fat based on their height and weight. Having too much body fat may be a risk to a person’s health.

For the study, researchers followed more than 18,000 people who were initially stroke-free for an average of 12 years.

Participants were interviewed every other year about their ability to do basic activities and were also asked for their height, weight and whether they participated in vigorous physical activity or exercise.

Vigorous physical activity was defined as participating in sports, heavy housework or a job that required physical labour.

During the study, 1,374 of the participants had a stroke and survived and 479 people had a stroke and died before the next round of interviews.

Of those who did not have a stroke, 45 per cent were physically active, compared to 43 per cent of those who had a stroke and survived.

Among the stroke survivors, those who were physically inactive were 18 per cent less likely to be taking care of their basic activities such as bathing on their own three years after stroke than those who exercised regularly.

They were also 16 per cent less likely to be taking care of more complex activities such as managing money on their own.

“Our study was able to show that being physically inactive before stroke predicts a higher risk of being dependent both before and after stroke,” Dr Rist said.

“Research is needed to look into whether more intense activity could improve stroke outcomes and whether people can change their activity patterns to improve stroke outcomes.”

Walking can help improve stroke recovery

Computational walking model could help stroke patients achieve optimal recovery

by News Medical Life Sciences

After a stroke, patients typically have trouble walking and few are able to regain the gait they had before suffering a stroke. Researchers funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed a computational walking model that could help guide patients to their best possible recovery after a stroke. Computational modeling uses computers to simulate and study the behavior of complex systems using mathematics, physics, and computer science. In this case, researchers are developing a computational modeling program that can construct a model of the patient from the patient’s walking data collected on a treadmill and then predict how the patient will walk after different planned rehabilitation treatments. They hope that one day the model will be able to predict the best gait a patient can achieve after completing rehabilitation, as well as recommend the best rehabilitation approach to help the patient achieve an optimal recovery.

Currently, there is no way for a clinician to determine the most effective rehabilitation treatment prescription for a patient. Clinicians cannot always know which treatment approach to use, or how the approach should be implemented to maximize walking recovery. B.J. Fregly, Ph.D. and his team (Andrew Meyer, Ph.D., Carolynn Patten, PT., Ph.D., and Anil Rao, Ph.D.) at the University of Florida developed a computational modeling approach to help answer these questions. They tested the approach on a patient who had suffered a stroke.

The team first measured how the patient walked at his preferred speed on a treadmill. Using those measurements, they then constructed a neuromusculoskeletal computer model of the patient that was personalized to the patient’s skeletal anatomy, foot contact pattern, muscle force generating ability, and neural control limitations. Fregly and his team found that the personalized model was able to predict accurately the patient’s gait at a faster walking speed, even though no measurements at that speed were used for constructing the model.

“This modeling effort is an excellent example of how computer models can make predictions of complex processes and accelerate the integration of knowledge across multiple disciplines,”says Grace Peng, Ph.D., director of the NIBIB program in Mathematical Modeling, Simulation and Analysis.

Fregly and his team believe this advance is the first step toward the creation of personalized neurorehabilitation prescriptions, filling a critical gap in the current treatment planning process for stroke patients. Together with devices that would ensure the patient is exercising using the proper force and torque, personalized computational models could one day help maximize the recovery of patients who have suffered a stroke.

“Through additional NIH funding, we are embarking with collaborators at Emory University on our first project to predict optimal walking treatments for two individuals post-stroke,” says Fregly. “We are excited to begin exploring whether model-based personalized treatment design can improve functional outcomes.”


National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

Is physical activity good for you?


American Stroke Association


Physical activity improves heart function and lipid profile by lowering total cholesterol. It lowers blood pressure and resting heart rate. Being active reduces the risk and severity of diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity, and it improves strength, balance, endurance and long-term brain health. For stroke survivors, these benefits can spell the difference between dependence and independence.

In addition to those physical benefits, exercise can enhance self-confidence and independence and reduce depression and anxiety. As survivor Lorraine Essig, 87, said, “I can be in a bad mood, but after I’ve done my exercises, that disappears.”

Since Lorraine’s stroke seven years ago, she works out three days a week, despite right-side weakness and challenges with her balance that require her to use a cane.

She starts with 10 minutes of pedaling on a portable exercise cycle she puts in front of her chair. Then she does a balancing exercise — standing on both feet, she raises her arms to shoulder height, closes her eyes and counts to 60. Holding onto her walker, she does 20 steps in place, bringing her knees as high as the handholds on her walker. Then she does a routine of 14 exercises 20 times each; she increases benefit by adding 2.5 lb weights, strapped to her wrists or ankles depending on the exercise. “I started out doing each one 30 times, but it tired me out too much,” Lorraine said.

Physical Activity for Stroke Survivors

Growing Peace of Mind

Survivor David Layton of Summerfield, North Carolina has found that growing a summer garden is great for his recovery and his attitude. He shares some valuable tips on gardening with a disability.

My Garden of Independence
Survivor Marcia Rosenberg enjoys working in her garden built to match her abilities.

Going Down Hill and Loving It: Snow Skiing
Survivor Toni Johnson of Elk Rapids, Michigan had a stroke while skiing in 2002 at age 75. She made skiing again a goal of her recovery, and she has worked hard at it, even after breaking a leg in her first year back on the slopes. With the help of an adaptive sports group, Toni is not only skiing again but riding a recumbent tricycle. She may be an 80-year-old stroke survivor, but she is determined not to act her age!

Making Golf Accessible
Saving Strokes, a golf therapy program developed and run by the Western States Affiliate of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, has grown so much. More than 550 survivors have been through the program, and almost 800 more are expected to participate in events this year at 13 sites in California, Nevada and Utah. We have highlighted three California golfers in our coverage: Carl Valdrow, Bill Dodd and John Castiglia.

Martial Arts for Survivors!

Who’d have thought that an ancient Chinese martial art—tai chi—could improve the lives of modern-day stroke survivors? Tai chi consists of slow, coordinated movements of the head, trunk and limbs that require deep concentration and balance control.

Making a Splash
Water therapy may be a good alternative for survivors with balance problems and hemiparesis. This article explores this therapeutic option and gives resources for accessing it.

7 Steps To Stroke Recovery

Last year Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia (SRABC) developed their successful ‘7 Steps to Stroke Recovery’ video, which has been extensively used by stroke survivors and their families. In 2015 SRABC decided, in collaboration with March of Dimes Canada, to create a series covering each step.

Now SRABC is pleased to announce the release of the next video in that series – Step #1: Exercise and Mobility.

The video emphasises important points to help stroke survivors to exercise regularly. It also helps stroke survivors and caregivers to make sure their post-hospital stroke recovery includes enough physical exercise.

Exercise helps us to:

  • Live longer and improve quality of life
  • Be healthier
  • Be in a better mood
  • Reduce stress
  • Have more energy

The most exciting news from the frontiers of brain science is that phys­i­cal exer­cise also trig­gers changes in the brain that can make up for lost function after a stroke. Brain cells surrounding the damaged area change, so they can take on the functions of the damaged cells -and that is really helped by physical exercise. In simple terms exercise trains the brain.

The video is hosted by March of Dimes Canada’s celebrity spokesperson and former TV wrestler Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, who is himself a stroke survivor and advocate. The information is presented by physiotherapist and author, Heather Branscombe, who is a member of the SRABC’s Board of Directors and Professional Advisory Committee. Heather is an experienced therapist who has extensive experience of working with stroke survivors.

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in Canada, with 6500 strokes occurring in BC every year. The main question facing stroke survivors after discharge from hospital is “now what?”  Not knowing where to go for help in the community, not knowing what is available and not knowing how to access programs is confusing and frustrating.  As stroke survivors move from hospital to home and adjust to life with a disability, they are at risk for depression, social isolation, as well as physical and cognitive decline. They need relevant education and practical guidance on living life after stroke and SRABC is committed to providing just that.

Video can be viewed here:

SOURCE:  Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia

Diet…or exercise?


When it comes to losing weight, what is more important: diet…or exercise?  It depends on who you ask.  Watch this 5 minute video clip from the Today Show and find out the TRUE answer.

Click on image to get full story.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.39.54 AM

I will give you a hint:  Jill is AMAZING; she has me on the correct path!  How does she know so many wise things?

My First week on my new Apple Watch!

IMG_0641I love my Apple watch!  I thought I would just used it to count steps, but I am having such a good time with EVERYTHING my Apple watch does.

Check out my first week. You will notice, there are 3 colors in the circle: Movement, Exercise and Standing.  If you do all 3, you had a good week.  I also combined that with my steps.


How to Reduce Your Risk of a Second Stroke?


Posted by Lisa O’Neill Hill 

About one in four people who’ve had a stroke will have a second, statistics show. If you’ve had a stroke, it’s important to work with your doctor to address the underlying cause or causes—whether that’s high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, another health issue, or a combination of factors.

The idea of a second stroke can be terrifying. But here’s the good news: By following medical advice and embracing healthier habits, you can greatly reduce your risk of a reoccurrence.

Unsure what to do? Follow these recommendations:
Follow your doctor’s orders. If your doctor has prescribed medicine such as a blood thinner, a blood pressure medication or a statin—a medication for high cholesterol—take it and take it as directed. Aspirin and similar medicines reduce the risk of blood clots that can cause a stroke. Taking a statin can reduce your chance of a stroke even if your cholesterol is normal.

Control your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to get it within normal ranges or lower. High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for stroke; having high blood pressure damages your arteries and makes them more likely to clog or burst. Taking blood pressure medication may help you even if your blood pressure isn’t high.

Stop smoking. Smoking damages your blood vessels and allows blood clots to form more easily. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor. Don’t give up. Most people try quitting many times before they are successful.

Exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day on most days. Some people enjoy starting or ending the day with a brisk walk. If you have physical limitations, work with your doctor or physical therapist to find an exercise routine you can do.

Eat good-for-you foods. Focus on vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Consider a Mediterranean-style diet, which focuses on those foods as well as fish, olive oil and nuts. Limit unhealthy fats like butter and avoid lots of salty foods.

Limit your alcohol intake. Having more than one to two drinks a day greatly increases the stroke risk in people who haven’t had a stroke, studies show. Drinking too much can make your blood pressure high.

Control other health conditions. If you have diabetes or atrial fibrillation—a type of irregular heartbeat—work with your doctor to get them under control. Both can increase stroke risk.

Check out my new Apple Watch!

IMG_0636It is so COOL!

I got a Fitbit for Christmas from my wife.  It’s funny, because I ALSO gave HER a Fitbit.  She said I don’t move around much and she wanted a way to show me how sedentary I was becoming.  I got her one because I thought is was really neat.

Anyway, I figured we could compete: who has the most steps in a day.  I thought I would kill her on steps!

On the first few days, I had 1500-2000 steps; she had over 10,000!  I couldn’t believe it.  She MUST be cheating.  So then I watched her.  She went up and down the stairs, walked around outside, went to the grocery store, etc.  At the end of the day, she had exceeded her goal of 10,000 steps…and I still had my paltry 1500 steps.

We had a treadmill when I first had my stroke, but we gave it back after a few years. Rats!

Then a miracle happened: our neighber called THAT DAY and asked us if we wanted to take back the treadmill!!! They weren’t using it. I said YES!

As soon as we got the treadmill delivered, I brought a TV and put NetFlix on it. I told Jill that I would get 10,000 steps 5 days per week.  If we couldn’t get it from walking, I would use the treadmill. She sort of believed me.

We are now 5 months since I set my goal.  Before I tell you the results, how do you think I did????

Here are the stats for the last 28 days.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 11.35.51 AM


Since I began in January, I only missed 4 days of not achieving my 10,000 steps.

Women Caregivers Are More At Risk


Posted by Teresa Bitler

According to a study released at the International Stroke Conference, gender plays a role in a caregiver’s health. The study revealed that women, especially those caring for their spouses, were much more likely to develop serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Women Are More At Risk

Stressed woman illustration.In general, female caregivers are more at risk for serious health conditions than their male counterparts. They report higher incidences of depression and anxiety and lower levels of well-being and life satisfaction. Female caregivers are also more likely to experience chronic disease, an increased risk of cancer, diminished immune system, and physical ailments such as acid reflux and headaches.

Studies indicate that the increased health risks may be associated with how women are wired. Female caregivers tend to have more of an emotional attachment to caregiving than their male counterparts.

Marriage Impacts Stress And Health

Providing care for your spouse can also put you at a higher risk for developing serious and chronic health conditions. The study released at the International Stroke Conference found that spousal caregivers and caregivers of the opposite sex of those they were providing for tended to experience a greater decline in health.

Spouses are particularly prone to burnout and health risks because caregiving can cause significant changes in the dynamics of the marital relationship. Plus, since you live together, you don’t get breaks from caregiving.

The study also indicated that the women who cared for their spouses tended to be at greater risk than men who cared for theirs.

Other Factors Compound The Risk

Some female caregivers are more susceptible to developing health issues than others. The study found other factors influenced the risk, including:
• Length of caregiving
• Difficulty of caregiving tasks
• Perceived impact on caregiver’s life

What You Can Do

Although female caregivers are at greater risk for developing health issues, providing care for a stroke survivor can have an impact on men, too. The National Alliance for Caregiving states that nearly half of the caregivers they surveyed indicate that their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving.
Take these steps to alleviate stress and protect your health:

• Ask for help from family and friends
• Join a support group
• Take time for yourself to visit with friends or enjoy a hobby
• Arrange for respite care
• If married, focus on the positive aspects of caregiving on relationship
• Schedule regular physical check-ups for yourself
• Exercise and meditate