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Stroke detecting software to be rolled out across New Zealand

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, left, meets with stroke patient Judith Allen at Wellington Hospital, assisted by clinical nurse Lai-Kin Wong.

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Judith Allen was trying to roll over in bed. Instead she fell on the floor, unable to move her limbs.

Six weeks after the stroke, the 75-years-old from Tawa is still in Wellington Hospital with half her body paralysed, recovering.

Her husband, Eddie Allen, said the couple had both been healthy for their age, staying active and watching their diet.

“It just strikes with such suddenness out of blue. There was no indication at all that anything was wrong,” he said.

Judith was rushed to hospital and within hours she had fallen into a drowsy semi sleep that gripped her for more than two weeks, leaving her unable to speak.

“I think the brain just goes into a holding pattern for a while to recover from the trauma,” her husband said.

Judith was one of several stroke patients at Wellington Hospital visited by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman on Thursday.  He was announcing the nationwide roll-out of new stroke diagnosis software for general practitioners, aimed at detecting the early signs of stroke.

These warning signs included transient ischemic attacks or mini strokes. The aim was to identify patients before they ended up in hospital.

About one in five people who suffer a mini stroke have a full-blown stroke within days.

Coleman said stroke was the third biggest cause of death in New Zealand and, while overall rates were not going up, it was increasingly affecting younger people and Maori. Early symptoms of a stroke were not picked up, he said, using the example of former All Black Piri Weepu’s stroke in 2014, which took weeks to diagnose.

“It will save lives … it brings simplicity and clarity to a very complex area,” Coleman said.

Whether the software would have picked up on early signs of Judith’s upcoming stroke is unknown.

Her recovery has been complicated by secondary bowel problem. She is planning to attend a family wedding in Auckland in December but her husband said that is unlikely.

Whether she will ever recovery the use of left side of her body, which she refers to as her “heavy lump”, is also uncertain.

However Judith remains determined to return to her old life, pointing to a teddy bear in the corner of her room holding a “be positive” sign.

“I will get there. The teddy tells me to be positive.”

STROKE IN NEW ZEALAND

* Stroke kills about 2500 people a year in New Zealand, making it the country’s third-biggest killer.

* Nearly one in three people who suffer a stroke die, while another third are left permanently disabled.

* The likelihood of suffering a stroke increases with unhealthy lifestyle choices. Alcohol, high salt intake, a lack of exercise and smoking can all increase your risk.

* High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for a stroke.

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Stroke app provides hope in the face of concerning stats

Stroke riskometer

Stroke app provides hope in the face of concerning stroke statistics

Stroke is one of New Zealand’s leading killers. One in six New Zealanders will experience a stroke in their lifetime, many resulting in death or disability, yet how many of us know how to reduce our risk of having a stroke?

Up to 90 per cent of strokes could be prevented if stroke risk factors were managed appropriately. With this in mind, an app developed by an AUT Professor is aiming to reduce the incidence of stroke and save lives around the world.

The Stroke RiskometerTM is the brainchild of AUT University’s Professor Valery Feigin. It was brought to market by AUT Enterprises Ltd, so that its potential health benefits could be shared with vast numbers of people world-wide.

The free Stroke RiskometerTM app enables users to assess their individual stroke risk on a smartphone or tablet. It evaluates factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, family history and lifestyle, and is already being used by health-conscious people in more than 70 countries.

According to Professor Feigin, the Stroke RiskometerTM helps users to play an active role in managing their health.

“We don’t need to wait until stroke strikes – we can act now and take control of our health. Stroke is much easier to prevent than to treat, and by making good lifestyle choices we can reduce our chances of suffering a stroke.”

“The Stroke RiskometerTM helps people to see what impact steps like exercising more, eating a healthier diet and drinking less alcohol are having on their personal risk profile, and helps users to stay motivated and maintain the positive lifestyle changes they choose to make”, says Professor Feigin.

Users seeking additional means of managing their risks can purchase the Stroke RiskometerTM Pro, enabling them to save and track results, share their risk profile with family members and health professionals, and access internationally recognised guidelines on mitigating stroke risk factors.

Professor Feigin says users of the app will not only be taking action against stroke, but will also be managing their risk of experiencing heart disease and dementia.

The Stroke RiskometerTM is endorsed by the World Stroke Organization and is available for download through the Apple App and Google Play stores.

 

 

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Controllable Risk Factors – Atrial Fibrillation

Controllable Risk Factors – Atrial Fibrillation

Artriall FibrillationAtrial fibrillation (AF) is a major risk factor for stroke, making a person five times more likely to have a stroke. About 15 percent of all people who have strokes have AF, too. People who have been diagnosed with AF have already taken the first step to preventing AF-related stroke. Unfortunately, many New Zealanders’ who have AF don’t know it. Three out of four AF-related strokes can be prevented — if you are already diagnosed, beat the odds of having a stroke due to AF by understanding stroke symptoms, response and available treatments to control AF.

Most New Zealanders’ over the age of 40 are at risk for having AF. Take preventive steps by self-testing for an irregular heartbeat with:

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Stroke 

What is AF and how is it related to stroke?

AF is a type of irregular or “racing” heartbeat that can cause blood to collect in the heart and potentially form a clot, which can travel to a person’s brain and cause a stroke or brain attack.  This condition increases a person’s risk for stroke by 500%. Plus, three out of four AF-related strokes can be prevented. AF-related strokes are also more deadly. In fact, more than 70% of AF patients who have strokes will die as a result. The prevalence of AF increases with increasing age, particularly from age 50 years. The overall prevalence of AF is approximately 1%, increasing to approximately 10% in people aged ≥ 80 years.1, Approximately one-third of the estimated 35,000 people in New Zealand with AF will be asymptomatic.2

 Who is most likely to have AF?
While it can occur at any age, AF is more common as you grow older. About five percent of people 65 years old have AF. One in every 20 people over the age of 70 has AF and it’s more common in those with high blood pressure, heart disease or lung disease.

What are the symptoms?
A normal heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute. Patients with AF can experience heartbeats as fast as 450 times per minute. Often, AF has no visible symptoms. Some people with AF describe fluttering, racing or pounding sensations in their chests. Others may only experience dizziness, fainting or lightheadedness during an episode.

How can I tell if I have AF?
The simple “Check Your Pulse” test can be done once a month. The test checks for an irregular pulse – a sign of possible AF. Ask your doctor to check as well. Remember you are checking for heart RHYTHM, not RATE. In other words you are checking for how your heart is beating and not how many times it beats in a 60-second period.

Check Your Pulse Test for Irregular Pulse
Step 1.
Turn your left hand so your palm is facing up. Place the first two fingers of your right hand on the outer edge of your left wrist, just below where you wrist and thumb meet.

Step 2. Slide your fingers toward the centre of your wrist until you find your pulse.

Step 3. Press your fingers down onto your wrist until you feel your pulse, being careful not to press too hard. Move your fingers around until the pulse is easy to feel.

Step 4. Feel you pulse for 60 seconds. Don’t count the beats. Just pay attention to whether the rhythm seems regular or irregular. A regular pulse will feel even and consistent. An irregular pulse will feel erratic and unpredictable. 

Treatments for AF
Most AF-related strokes could be prevented with anti-coagulation treatments, yet up to two-thirds of AF patients who had strokes were not prescribed anti-coagulants or blood thinners. Anticoagulation can reduce the risk of first stroke by 68 percent. There are several reasons why current drugs are not being prescribed including interactions with diet and other drugs, the necessity for frequent blood tests and monitoring and concerns about increased risk of bleeding. But, there are new drugs on the horizon that may have fewer complications and will eliminate the monitoring issues associated with current treatments.

The goal for treating AF is to restore the normal, regular rhythm of your heart. Often, this can be done with medications or the use of electrical stimulation. If these efforts are not successful, AF treatment concentrates on protecting you from the blood clots that could travel from the heart to the brain, causing strokes. To reduce the risk of stroke, doctors can prescribe clot-preventing medications, which can greatly reduce stroke risk if taken properly.

Check out http://afib.co.nz/index.html for further information on treatments, explanations of Afib and to hear a pod cast by Harvey White talking on the risks and treatments of AF.

Check out http://www.bpac.org.nz/BPJ/2011/october/af.aspx for further information on treatments, management and the types of Afib.

Common AF symptoms:Heart palpitations.A sudden pounding, fluttering or racing sensation in the chest,   sometimes referred to as “butterflies”.Dizziness or feeling light-headed.

A thorough heart check-up at the doctor includes testing for blocked blood vessels and irregular heart rhythms, including AF. Because AF, like high blood pressure, cholesterol and some other heart diseases, often has no outward symptoms, the only way to confirm the presence of AF is to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG).

normal-ecgDuring an ECG, sensitive electrodes are placed on the chest. These electrodes pick up the electrical impulses generated by the body that cause the heart to beat. The impulses are sent to a T.V. screen or a piece of paper called an ECG strip. By examining the specific pattern of electrical impulses, a doctor can determine whether a patient has AF. Doctors may choose to treat this form of heart disease by prescribing medication or by an electrical shock to the chest to return the beating back to normal.

Talk to a doctor about the best stroke prevention options for you. Then take responsibility and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. The lifestyle adjustments — such as eating healthy foods and quitting smoking — made today may reduce the risk of stroke tomorrow.

aheadofstroked03ar03ap01zl_icon-washington3a_sml1.jpgA Head of Stroke” is dedicated to those affected by Stroke re-contributing to their community. We aim to provide impartial educational information on Stroke prevention, awareness, the effects, rehabilitation, reconnection, tips and tricks that can benefit those most affected by Stroke. This is a New Zealand Web site. Its content is intended for New Zealand resident use.

This Web site does not provide medical advice. Information provided on this site is not designed or intended to constitute medical advice or to be used for diagnosis. Due to unique individual needs and medical history, please consult your own personal physician who will be able to determine the appropriateness of the information for your specific situation and they will assist you in making any decisions regarding treatment and/or medication.

References

  1. Kannel W, Wolf P, Benjamin E, Levy D. Prevalence, incidence, prognosis, and predisposing conditions for atrial fibrillation: population-based estimates. Am J Cardiol 1998;82:2N-9N.
  1. Lip G. Stroke in atrial fibrillation: epidemiology and thromboprophylaxis. J Thromb Haemost 2011;9 (suppl 1):344-51.

Controllable Risk Factors – Cholesterol

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy fat (lipid) that is made by the body. It is found in the bloodstream and in all of your body’s cells. The body needs cholesterol to form cell membranes, some hormones and vitamin D.

Cholesterol is also found in some foods, such as eggs, meats and dairy products.

Because cholesterol does not dissolve in the blood on its own, it must be carried to and from cells by particles called lipoproteins. There are two main types of lipoproteins: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

High cholesterol or plaque build-up in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the brain
High cholesterol or plaque build-up in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the brain

LDL is often called the “bad” cholesterol. It can cause plaque build-up. Plaque is a thick, hard substance that can clog arteries. Recent studies show that high levels of LDL and triglycerides (blood fats) raise the risk of ischemic stroke. Plaque can also increase risk of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) where stroke symptoms go away within 24 hours.

The second main type of cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), often called the “good” cholesterol. High levels of HDL may reduce stroke risk.

  • How does cholesterol affect stroke risk?
    High cholesterol or plaque build-up in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke. High cholesterol may also increase the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis, which are both risk factors for stroke.
  • What increases cholesterol levels?
    Many things can affect cholesterol levels. Some can be changed and some cannot.

Things you can change:

  1. Diet — Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol can increase cholesterol levels.
  2. Weight — Being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels.
  3. Exercise — People who are not active tend to have higher cholesterol levels.

Things you cannot change:

  1. Family History — If someone in your family has high cholesterol, you are more likely to have high cholesterol.
  2. Age — Most people experience an increase in cholesterol levels until about the age of 65.
  3. Gender — Women under age 50 tend to have lower cholesterol and those in menopause have higher levels.

How often should I be checked for high cholesterol?

  • All adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol checked at least once every five years.
  • Cholesterol should be checked more frequently in men older than 45 and women older than 55.
  • People with a family history of high cholesterol should be checked more often.
  • People who have high cholesterol should be checked more often.

What can I do to manage my cholesterol?

  1. Eat a healthy diet
  2. Eat low-fat foods especially foods low in saturated fat. This includes vegetables, fruits, lean meats such as chicken and fish, low-fat dairy products and a limited number of egg yolks.
  3. Bake, broil, steam or grill your food (instead of frying).
  4. Add fibre to your diet, including whole grains or dried beans.
  5. Talk to your doctor about any necessary medical treatment that may help control cholesterol levels

A Head of Stroke Dedicated to Reconnection after Stroke

A Head of Stroke” is dedicated to those affected by Stroke re-contributing to their community. We aim to provide impartial educational information on Stroke prevention, awareness, the effects, rehabilitation, reconnection, tips and tricks that can benefit those most affected by Stroke.

This is a New Zealand Web site. Its content is intended for New Zealand resident use.

This Web site does not provide medical advice. Information provided on this site is not designed or intended to constitute medical advice or to be used for diagnosis. Due to unique individual needs and medical history, please consult your own personal physician who will be able to determine the appropriateness of the information for your specific situation and they will assist you in making any decisions regarding treatment and/or medication.

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What is Stroke?

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in New Zealand (about 2000 people every year) and a leading cause of adult disability.Up to 80% of strokes are preventable; you can prevent a stroke! Around 10 percent of stroke deaths occur in people under 65.

What is a stroke?A stroke or “brain attack” 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 happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that  area of the brain are lost.  These abilities include speech, movement  and memory.  How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the  stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.

What is Stroke?
A cross section Image of the brain
For example, someone who has a small stroke may experience only minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg.  People who have larger  strokes may be paralysed on one side or lose their ability to speak.   Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of  survivors will have some type of disability.
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Welcome to “A Head of Stroke”

A Head of StrokeDedicated to Reconnection after Stroke
A Head of Stroke
Dedicated to Reconnection after Stroke

Welcome to “A Head of Stroke” a New Zealand blog, website & connection dedicated to those affected by Stroke re-contributing to their community.

Having taken the time to research the literature on Stroke, I found that much of the existing  literature  on  the impact  of major life trauma  such as stroke and  its relationship  to work is written  from  an  expert  point  of view.

It focuses on either the factors that contribute to an individual’s  ability to return  to work or on the ways in  which  experts  can facilitate  return  to  work. There is a particular focus on assessment and rehabilitation.  There  is less evidence  from  the  survivors’ point of view, of factors that motivate them to return  to  work;  their  own assessment   of  the  feasibility; opportunities for returning to work; the meaning and importance of work or their experiences  of returning to  work.

More than 40 percent of stroke survivors have reported limited success in meeting their rehabilitation goals, which include the ability walk better and regain their speech
More than 40 percent of stroke survivors have reported limited success in meeting their rehabilitation goals, which include the ability walk better and regain their speech

If rehabilitation services are to be person-centred it is important  that  they  are  based  on  and   take  into account  the personal  experiences  of individuals  who have survived  a stroke.  Without  these  insights  it is likely that important factors which influence recovery from  stroke  will be  missed  and  therefore  efforts to help individuals who have had a stroke may not meet their needs  and aspirations.

A study conducted by an International Stroke Association in the UK; emphasised the needs of the Forgotten Stroke Survivor.  They found that an alarming rate a stroke survivors were not receiving the proper long-term information on rehabilitation and recovery after a stroke.

Is the same situation true in New Zealand?