Friday, August 31, 2018

September is Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month

United Stroke Alliance in partnership with Medtronic is launching a new resource for Stroke Support Groups called The Booster Box. Included in the box is everything a leader needs to conduct a support group meeting for up to 24 attendees.

To receive your free Booster Box please call our office at 
309-688-5450 or email to request yours. 

Subscriptions will be available for purchase and information will be inside your free box.  

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The following was contributed by
Hanna Hughes
Associate Marketing Communications Specialist

Cardiac Rhythm & Heart Failure
8200 Coral Sea Street NE, MVS21 | Mounds View, MN 55112| USA

Learn more about what could be at the heart of your stroke.

Atrial fibrillation (also referred to as AF or AFib) is a major risk factor for stroke. (1) Atrial fibrillation is a common condition in which the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, fibrillate. This means that they beat very fast and irregularly, so the heart can’t pump blood effectively to the rest of the body.

AFib increases the risk of stroke more than 5 times, (1) but often goes undetected since it can happen infrequently or without symptoms. When someone has AFib, the blood is not moving through the heart the way it should, and blood clots can form within the left atria. If a clot dislodges, it can travel to the brain and result in a stroke.

September is Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. Take time this month to learn about Atrial Fibrillation and if you are at risk. If the cause of your stroke is unknown, it’s very important to determine if you have AFib. If AFib is found, your doctor may change your medications or suggest other treatments in order to reduce your risk of having another stroke.

(1) Wolf PA, Abbott RD, Kannel WB. Atrial fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke: The Framingham Study. Stroke. August 1991;22(8):983-988.

I hope to get more information on Atrial Fibrillation to post throughout the month.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Stroke deaths on the rise for some Americans

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Stroke deaths on the rise for some Americans

Since at least the 1960s, the rate of Americans who die from stroke has been on the decline. But that progress has slowed, and in some cases reversed, according to a new federal report.

The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the rate of stroke deaths among U.S. adults fell 38 percent between 2000 and 2015. But that pace has slowed or even reversed in 38 states in recent years. Florida saw the biggest reversal, with stroke death rates increasing nearly 11 percent each year from 2013 to 2015.

African-Americans are most likely to die from stroke, but stroke death rates rose 5.8 percent each year among Hispanics from 2013 to 2015. Deaths from stroke also increased 4.2 percent each year in the South during that time.

If declines in stroke mortality had maintained the same pace from 2013 to 2015, an estimated 32,593 stroke deaths may not have occurred, the report said.

The findings are “a wake-up call,” said CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and underscore the importance of identifying and treating risk factors, geographic trends and other factors that may be slowing progress.

“We know the majority of strokes are preventable and we must improve our efforts to reduce America’s stroke burden,” she said.

The report did not identify the reasons for the slowdown, but other studies have pointed to increased numbers of Americans with stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

(Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University, said the report’s findings are worrisome and underscore the importance of efforts to identify and control risk factors across age groups.

Elkind said maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and avoiding tobacco are important to building healthy habits that can have a big impact over a lifetime.

“It’s never too early to start working on a healthier lifestyle and it’s never too late to change bad habits,” said Elkind, also chair of the American Stroke Association.

About 800,000 Americans have a stroke each year, but 80 percent of strokes are preventable through lifestyle changes, according to the CDC.

Elkind said increases in obesity and chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure among young people could lead to greater stroke risk as those patients get older.

“This could be the tip of the iceberg because complications of heart disease and these chronic conditions haven’t caught up to them yet,” he said.

Increasing access to health care is important to identify and treat risk factors early, Elkind said. “You can’t screen people and treat them if they can’t get in or afford to see a doctor.”

The increase in stroke death rates among Hispanics and Southerners reveal the need for greater outreach and a closer look at what factors are driving the numbers in specific populations, he said.

“We can’t treat everyone the same,” Elkind said. “We need to treat them with cultural awareness and sensitivity.”

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown called the report distressing but not unexpected given previous projections.

“This report gives us even more reason to aggressively continue our efforts, especially in multicultural communities and to reach people at younger ages, as we are seeing more strokes in people in their 30s and 40s,” she said.

The CDC pointed to efforts to reduce stroke risks and improve stroke care, such as the Million Heartsinitiative and the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program.

Million Hearts is co-led by CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2022. The Coverdell program improves collaboration between hospitals, emergency medical services and outpatient providers, in addition to educating the community to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, which include face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty.

“Stroke is a real medical emergency,” said Robert Merritt, who works in the CDC’s Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. “Know the signs, and call 911 and get people to the hospital.”

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Do you know how to recognize a stroke?

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Do you know how to recognize a stroke? 
Do you know what you need to do when you recognize one? 

Below are the guide lines. 
Memorize them or print them out and keep in your purse or wallet because you never know when you might be the one to save a person's life, or even your own.  
80% of strokes could be avoided. 
Every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke.
There are life saving methods to minimize the effects of stroke - IF YOU GET TREATMENT IN TIME.

Up until now we have been urging you to remember the acronym F.A.S.T.

Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

Time: If you observe any of these signs call 9-1-1 immediately.

This simple test is still valid, however, we have been finding out that, while people are getting better recognizing the F.A.S. part, there is a reluctance to take the T. part seriously. 

Here is a better guideline we want to promote:

B - Balance: Sudden loss of balance.
E - Eyes: Sudden blurry or loss of vision.

F - Face: Sudden numbness, one side drooping - can they smile.
A - Arms: Sudden weakness in arms - can you raise both?
S - Speech: Slurred or mumbling speech.
T - Time: Call 911 NOW
E - Emergency
R - Room: Get to the ER by ambulance, they know what to                       do FASTER

Helping survivors at our stroke camps I found that some of them, sufferers themselves or their caregivers, have driven their own cars to the ER because it seemed faster than waiting for an ambulance to arrive. This is not a good idea because many things can happen on the way such as long stop lights, mechanical breakdown, accident, flat tire, or a traffic jam which could mean life or death or serious debilitation to the sufferer. 

It is estimated that in each minute of a ischemic stroke, 1.9 million neurons, 14 billion synapses, and 12 km of myelinated fibers are destroyed. 

You may think you can get there faster than waiting for an ambulance but the truth is the sufferer will be getting diagnosis and treatment on the way to the ER in the ambulance, and the ER will be getting the stroke team ready and waiting at the door, with a good diagnosis and proper tests in mind. Some ambulances in some cities are even able to administer the clot busting drug TPA on the way to the ER. My hope is that all cities will have this capability, and soon.

Time is extremely important when 
treating stroke. 



Sunday, August 12, 2018

Stroke Camp Tropical Island Getaway

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We conduct weekend camps all over the U.S. We go border to border, ocean to ocean, for stroke survivors and their caregivers. Every year we have a different theme for dress-up, fun and team games. This year our theme is Tropical Island Getaway. Here are a few highlights of one of the camps I attended recently in Illinois. 

Tropical Island Face Paint

Island Totem Building Contest
Shark Toss

Flamingo Catching

Island Girls

Sea Shell Hunt

Island Dancing

Island Songs

Crazy Tourist


Limbo Winner

Island Drums

Island Music Therapist


Island Food

More Crazy Tourists

Island Hand Waxers
If you would like to attend one of our camps you may contact us through our website: where you'll find more information and a phone number to call.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Aquatherapy and Visualization

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There are many sports professionals who do visualization. If you've ever watched the down hill skiers during the winter Olympics you'll know what I mean. You'll see them standing at the gate with their eyes closed and their head moving back and forth as they visualize every flag and turn on the hill. Here's an article I took from the StrokeNet Newsletter  written by a stroke survivor who has applied that to his stroke recovery.  
Dancing with Stroke
By Jim Sinclair

Aquatherapy and Visualization

By coincidence, my return from Arizona to my primary residence in Winnipeg just happened to coincide with one of my favorite weekends of the year. As a bit of a golf fanatic, much of that weekend was consumed watching the Masters Golf Tournament. During the third round of the Masters, the performance of Bubba Watson reminded me of the importance of visualization in my journey of recovery following stroke.

I believe that in addition to their physical prowess; what separates great professional golfers from those of us who are mediocre amateurs is their ability to clearly visualize the shot they are about to attempt and then physically execute that shot. During my three month hospital stay following my strokes I had a large number of excellent therapists from various disciplines assist me in my journey of recovery. My primary focus throughout the three months was trying to learn to use a walker rather than a wheelchair.

With a burning desire to be able to walk independently so as to continue to golf, I was most eager to cooperate and enthusiastically undertake each and every activity recommended by my therapists except for one situation. During my last two weeks in the HSC Rehabilitation hospital a recreation therapist by the name of Clayton recommended that I participate in Aquatherapy in the hospital’s pool. For the first time in this journey I felt frightened. For most of my life I had a fear of water and a fear of drowning.

When Clayton first recommended the Aquatherapy I protested quite vehemently because I could not understand how I could be expected to do this when I was still not capable of getting out of my wheelchair nor stand independently. With a great deal of trepidation and a couple of sleepless nights I finally agreed to give it a try. On the appointed day Clayton transported me from my hospital room to the pool’s dressing room where he assisted me in putting on my swim suit.

When Clayton wheeled me out to the pool area my near panic subsided somewhat as we were joined by the two final year physiotherapy students whose practicum entailed working with me, as they clarified that they were there should Clayton need their assistance. I felt a moment of enlightenment when clayton slipped a harness under my torso so that a lift could raise me out of my chair to transfer me gently into the pool right next to one of the sides of the pool.

Clayton instructed me to grab the side of the pool and hang on. I grasped the side first with my good right hand and then added my feeble stroke affected left hand. The rest of that session entailed my hanging on to the side of the pool and moving around just a little, within a few minutes I experienced the joy of realizing that I was standing erect in the pool using the buoyancy of the water and just touching the side for balance.

A few days later when I was taken to the pool area I was cautiously optimistic as I was aware of what to expect and felt safe. The second session was a repeat of the first except Clayton had me work my way along the side to the deep end. To my amazement Clayton pointed out that there were parallel bars in the deep end and asked me to stretch out and reach for the closest bar, assuring me that the water would keep me buoyed up when I let go of the side and reached for the bar.

I reached out in confidence knowing that earlier that day my two physiotherapy practicum students had advanced me to setting aside my walker to use a cane for the first time. The next day I was excited, eager and looking forward to attend my third Aquatherapysession... I had been told tha the following day my occupational therapist would be going to my home to do an assessment to determine if it was safe for me to return home and determine what work would need to be done to our house so that I could function safely at home with a wheelchair and a walker.

My third Aquatherapy session began with my working my way directly to the parallel bars in the deep end. With reaffirming encouragement from Clayton I maneuvered myself in between the parallel bars where Clayton had me take a few steps back and forth holding on to the parallel bars. After a few minutes of that I mustered the courage to let go of the bars and to my amazement I was walking independently using only the water bouncy to keep me up.

That night was my best night in hospital in that I went to sleep holding the thought of my walk in the water and envisioning that I could walk independently. I knew that if I could do it in the water I could do it out of the water. The next morning I awoke full of positive excitement. I could still envision myself walking independently, I was aware that if my occupational therapist was doing a home assessment, I might soon return home.

My day began with my physiotherapy session which my youngest son was attending to see my progress. My regular physiotherapist Becky asked me to demonstrate how I had used the cane the day before with the two students.. Becky handed me the cane. I mentioned that the physiotherapy students had me use the cane in my left hand as they were concerned about the issues presented by my right hip that had been preplaced. I told Becky that since my left hand was my stroke affected side I would rather try using the cane in my right hand.

She placed the cane n my right hand and punted to the doorway telling me to see how many steps I could take towards the door with the cane. All that was in my mind was the same vision of walking independently that I had experienced earlier that morning. After about ten steps Becky barked “Stop. Do you realize the cane is not touching the floor? You are carrying it. Put the cane down and keep going you are finished for today” So I kept walking to the elevator, went back to my room. I credit my ability to walk for the past ten years to the Aquatherapy sessions which resulted in the ability to envision myself walking independently.

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The Stroke Network, Inc.
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