Aphasia: A Brain Injury That You Can’t See


WhatsApp for aphasia patientsThis month is brain injury month. Let’s talk about one type of brain injury that is very common, but that most people haven’t heard of—aphasia. Aphasia is actually more common than Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. But most people have never heard of it.

What is brain injury?

Brain injury can affect a person in many ways. It can impair cognitive abilities, physical functioning and behavioral or emotional functioning.

  • Cognitive abilities: memory loss, slowed ability to process information, trouble concentrating, organizational problems, poor judgment and difficulty initiating activities.
  • Physical functioning: seizures, muscle spasticity, fatigue, headaches and balance problems.
  • Emotional/behavioral functioning: depression, mood swings, anxiety, impulsivity and agitation.

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is one type of brain injury that you cannot see. That’s why it’s called “the silent disability.” Aphasia is usually a result of a stroke. Most strokes are caused when the arteries leading to the brain are suddenly blocked. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. Depending which brain cells die, stroke survivors will lose different abilities.

Over 1 million people in the United States have aphasia according to the National Aphasia Association. Aphasia is a language impairment that happens when the language center of the brain is damaged from a stroke or hemorrhage. Because of this damage, someone with aphasia has difficulty finding appropriate words and building grammatically correct sentences.

Speech and language therapist help people with aphasia by restoring as much language as possible. They teach them how to compensate for lost language skills and finding other methods of communicating.

The National Aphasia Association lists eight forms of aphasia. Aphasia can be so severe that communication with the person is almost impossible, or it can be very mild. Sometimes, a single aspect of language is affected. Perhaps the person can’t retrieve the names of objects. Or put words together to make a sentence. Sometimes, the the words he strings together aren’t related at all. Usually, several aspects of communication are affected.

Communicating with aphasia patients

  1. Keep communication simple, but adult. Don’t talk down to someone with aphasia. Just because a person cannot speak, doesn’t mean he can’t understand. Using simple sentences and talking slowly will make it easier for someone with aphasia to understand you.
  2. Do minimize or eliminate background noise like the TV or radio.
  3. Be an attentive listener. Do listen patiently when someone with aphasia is struggling to find the right words. Don’t finish his sentences.
  4. Use visual aids. Seeing things in writing helps. Instead of telling someone with aphasia about an invitation, show it to him. Instead of telling him what to buy at the store, give him a written list. You can also WhatsApp information.
  5. Do write down keywords while speaking.
  6. Don’t be shy to use gestures and exaggerate your facial expressions.


What’s the Difference Between Good and Bad Carbohydrates?

slice of whole wheat good carbs

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet, but there’s a big difference between good and bad carbohydrates. Your body needs carbohydrates to make glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy for your body. But there’s a catch: there’s a big difference between good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Here’s what you need to know to make good food choices for optimal health.

There are three main types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber. Many foods contain a mix of these three types of carbohydrates. So what makes them good or bad? The answer is that it depends on whether they are “simple” or “complex” carbohydrates.

Simple carbs

Simple carbohydrates are composed of easy-to-digest, basic sugars. Some of these sugars are naturally occurring, such as those in fruits and in milk. But refined or processed sugars are often added to candies, baked goods, and soda. These sugars have many different names: corn sweetener, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, maltose, malt syrup, sucrose, and honey, among others.

Simple carbohydrates aren’t necessarily all bad carbs — it depends on the food you’re getting them from. For instance, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of essential vitamins and minerals necessary for good health, and they naturally contain simple carbohydrates composed of basic sugars.

But fruits and vegetables are drastically different from other foods in the “simple” carbohydrate category, like cookies and cakes with added refined sugars. The fiber in fruits and vegetables changes the way the body processes their sugars and slows down their digestion, making them a bit more like complex carbohydrates.

Watch out for these simple carbs: soda, candy, cookies, lemonade and iced tea. Keep them for when you need a treat.

Complex carbs

Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. They contain longer chains of sugar molecules. Your body takes more time to break them down and use them. This provides you with a more consistent amount of energy.

The body takes longer to break down complex carbs. That means get lower amounts of sugars released at a more consistent rate. These keep you going throughout the day. Foods with complex carbohydrates also have more vitamins, fiber, and minerals than foods containing more simple carbohydrates. But make sure to choose the whole grains over processed ones. Go for whole-wheat flour, quinoa, brown rice, barley, corn, and oats. Skip processed grains like white rice and breads, pasta, and white flour.

Add these complex carbs to your diet: whole wheat breads, pastas, brown rice, barley, quinoa, potatoes, corn, and legumes.

Take away: When trying to figure out if a source of carbohydrates is good or bad, remember this: the higher in sugar it is, and the lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, the worse the food is for you.

8 Easy Steps to Boost Your Immune System

cell in the immune system

Your need to boost your immune system so that it can defends you from disease-causing microbes. Some of the common viruses that your immune system protects you from include coronaviruses (we’re hearing plenty about that one), parainfluenza viruses, adenoviruses, and rhinoviruses. Your immune system also protects you from common bacteria like Streptococcus.

Here’s what you can do to give your immune system an extra boost.

  1. Add vitamin C to your diet. While vitamin C can’t prevent a cold, it just might make it go away faster. Taking vitamin C supplements just before cold symptoms start. (Like when you get that sandpapery feeling in the back of your throat) can help get rid of a cold faster, but if your cold is in full-swing, vitamin C won’t help you.
  2. Take Zinc. Taking zinc lozenges, tablets or syrup can also shorten a cold.
  3. Add probiotics to your diet. Probiotics contain live organisms, usually specific strains of bacteria. Taking probiotics means adding good bacteria to the healthy microbes in your gut. Probably the most common probiotic food is yogurt. You can also try sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi.
  4. Go for the garlic. Your grandmother was right: Adding fresh garlic to your diet will give your immune system a good boost. Note that heat deactivates a key active ingredient, so to get the best benefits, add garlic to food just before serving.
  5. Pile on the fruit and vegetables. Aim to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables so that your immune system has the pool of nutrients it needs.
  6. Juice your way to health. Juicing is a terrific way to get all of your nutritional needs from your diet if you’re reluctant to eat fruit and vegetables. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices give you a concentrated super-boost of antioxidants, enzymes and nutrients. These benefit your immune systems, aid digestion and help remove toxins from your body.
  7. See the sun. If your vitamin D levels are low, you may run an increased risk of respiratory infection. The best way to increase your vitamin D levels is to go out into the sun. Avoid the hottest part of the day as this can cause sun damage to your skin. Remember that as you age, your body is less able to convert the sun’s rays to vitamin D. It’s not easy to get this vitamin from foods, but fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are a good source.
  8. Get enough sleep. Make sure that you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Research shows that sleep deprivation can increase the hormone cortisol. If your cortisol levels are high for a long time, your immune function will be weakened.


The Benefits Of Recreational Therapy And Why It Works

Old man with dogs

Recreational therapy is used to enhance a senior’s mental and physical well being. Let’s take a look at some types of recreational therapy and see why these therapies work.

Types of recreational therapy

Music therapy

Listening to music helps to reduce stress and even to alleviate pain. From drum circles, sing-alongs, and music performances, music is a great way to get those endorphins (happy hormones) flowing through your body.

Pet therapy

Regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in older adults. Researchers found that pet therapy (petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird) can brighten up the mood of a lonely senior. Having pets around allows you to bond with animals without relying on any language.


The sense of smell is a powerful link to memories, and positive smells—such as lavender and peppermint—can help create a peaceful environment. This type of therapy is particularly calming for seniors with dementia.

Horticulture therapy

A trip to the outdoors is a great mood booster. In addition to gentle exposure to sunlight, being outdoors is a sure way to get some exercise.

Art therapy

Art therapy can involve paint, craft, sculpt, and sketching. As well as the satisfaction gained from creating something, seniors also put their fine motor skills to work.

Table games and card games

These are a good way for older adults to increase cognitive and social skills. Past generations were much more involved than us in games such as Mahjong, bridge, cribbage, and more. Through these games, patients work on skills involving memory, concentration, judgment, strategy, and teamwork.

Why recreational therapy works

Here are three reasons why recreational therapy works:

  1. It uses skills that you already have. Sometimes seniors give up hobbies because they think they can’t do them anymore. Weak eyesight might interfere with a senior’s ability to knit or scrapbook. But even if seniors have lost some dexterity, their skills can be channeled in a different direction. Instead of knitting, they can take up scarf painting.
  2. It helps combats loneliness and depression. By remaining active seniors can maintain their physical and mental skills, which can boost his or her health and overall sense of well being. This keeps loneliness and depression at bay. Dementia patients can become stressed when they are unable to communicate with people or are unable to express their ideas or feelings. Recreational therapy can also encourage seniors who have aphasia and other verbal limitations to interact in ways that aren’t limited to speech.
  3. Relieves stress. Spending time doing something you enjoy releases endorphins. Endorphins have a calming effect and reduce levels of stress. This is especially good for patients who suffer from dementia.

Researchers Recommend a Variety of Exercises for Brain Health

Drawing of the brain and its parts
Drawing of the brain with parts labeled.

If you take part in a variety of activities you’re likely to have better brain health. Adults in the Western world are living increasingly long lives. So understanding how to preserve and nurture brain health is ever more important.

We already know two things:

  • The more you engage in physical and cognitive activities, the better your cognitive performance.
  • People who spend long periods doing more passive activities, such as watching television, are more likely to experience cognitive decline.

Variety counts

A recent study by researchers at the University of South Florida in Tampa shows that mental health isn’t just about increasing physical and cognitive activities. It’s about making sure you have a variety. Experiencing and learning from a variety of activities in daily life help you to perform better at cognitively challenging tasks.

Taking part in a range of activities often means that individuals meet more people. Social activity in itself leads to more knowledge and better psychological and cognitive resources.

About the study

Researchers took data from 732 people between the ages of 34 and 84 years. Every day for 8 consecutive days, they asked these individuals whether they had taken part in any of the following seven common activities:

  • spending time with children
  • paid work
  • leisure activities
  • chores
  • formal volunteering
  • physical activity
  • giving informal help to people who do not live with them

Using this information, the authors gave each participant a score that reflected how varied their activates were and for how long they did them.

After 10 years, the scientists tested the study participants. They measured verbal fluency, working and verbal memory, processing speed, and attention.

The results of the study

The authors found that those who had engaged in the most varied activities had the highest cognitive function scores. In other words, it is not that someone with diverse activities spends longer being active. Instead, it seems that it is the diversity itself that makes the difference.

Limitations of the study

Although the researchers asked about the participants’ health, they did not review their medical records. As certain health conditions can reduce an individual’s ability to carry out activities, as well as influencing cognitive health, this has the potential to skew the results.

But overall, it seems that the adage to ‘use it or lose it’ is true.


The Top Reasons for Stiff Joints in Seniors

X ray of knee joint

You may have noticed that as you’re getting older, you’re suffering from stiff joints. What are the reasons for these stiff joints?


There’s not much you can do about this one. Here are two reasons why:

  • Cartilage is a spongy material that protects the ends of your bones. Think of it as a shock absorber. As you age, the cartilage begins to dry out and stiffen.
  • Each of the joints in the human body contains synovial fluid. This thick fluid lubricates the joint and decreases friction around the cartilage. As you age, your body makes less synovial fluid.

With dry cartilage and less lubrication, it’s not surprising you feel stiff. Especially in the morning when you wake up or after you’ve been still for several hours. That’s because they synovial fluid can’t easily move around and do its job.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common types of arthritis in older people. In most cases, OA is simply a result of the normal wear and tear over the years. Many people over the age of 50 are affected and women are affected more often than men. OA affects more than 30 million men and women in the United States.

What causes osteoarthritis?

It’s back to your joints and cartilage. Cartilage doesn’t just get stiff. It can wear away over time or after an injury. When it’s gone, the bones hit one another, and sometimes, tiny pieces break off. The result is a stiff, swollen, painful joint.

Usually, osteoarthritis develops in the weight-bearing joints of the knees, hips, or spine. It’s also common in the fingers. If you lose a lot of cartilage in your knee joints, you may find that your knees curve out. Sometimes, bony spurs along the spine develop. These can lead to pain, numbness, or tingling.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Your immune system is supposed to protect you from outside germs. But sometimes, the system goes wrong. Healthy joints are surrounded by a membrane or synovium. This protective tissue is only a few cells thick. Its job is to produce fluid that lubricates and nourishes the joint. Sometimes your immune system attacks the membrane (the synovium) that lines your joints. When the membrane is irritated or inflamed, it becomes thicker and swollen with excess synovial fluid. The inflamed synovium can eventually invade and destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. This is what rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is about. RA is most likely to affect your wrist or finger joints, but it can show up anywhere in your body. It often causes constant pain and stiffness. Sometimes, it stays in the background and only flares up now and then.

Other types of arthritis

These forms of arthritis are less common, but they can cause the same symptoms of pain and stiffness.

  • Ankylosing spondylitis This mostly affects your spine, but it can make your hips, hands, or feet feel stiff.
  • Gout The first sign of this build-up of uric acid in your body is often a searing pain in your big toe.
  • Infectious arthritis (Septic arthritis) It often starts with an infection somewhere else in your body that travels to one big joint, like your hip.
  • Psoriatic arthritis People with psoriasis or family members who have it are most likely to get this type. Signs include swollen fingers and pitted nails.

What Are A Patient’s Choices For Pain Management?

Pain management is something every patient needs to know about.  Most pain can be alleviated with over-the-counter products or prescription medications. Chronic pain, however, often persists despite medication. To cope with this, you’ll need to make life-style changes.

Over-the-counter products

If you have mild fever or pain, then you’ll opt for painkillers that you can buy in a store over the counter. Here are the most common products:

  • Aspirin is the oldest and best-known pain killer. It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Doctors often recommend aspirin for people who are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, because it can prevent blood clots. Watch out if you’re taking it for a long time. Asprin, like all NSAIDs, can cause problems from simple indigestion to stomach ulcers. Taking a lot of NSAIDs may cause kidney damage.
  • Acetaminophen You’ll find acetaminophen in many cold and sinus medicines. Don’t take too much or drink alcohol while taking it, as it can cause liver damage.
  • Ibuprofen Ibuprofen, a more recent NSAID, can also cause stomach or kidney problems. (Like other NSAIDs). But since it acts quickly and leaves the body faster than aspirin, there’s less chance of side effects.

Prescription painkillers

These are often opioids. They block the nerve signals that transmit feelings of pain to your brain, bringing feelings of pleasure. If you’ve had recent surgery, a painful injury, or are living with chronic pain, your doctor may prescribe them.

Common opioid painkillers include : codeine, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Demerol and morphine. Fentanyl is another opioid painkiller that is 100 times more powerful than other opioids.

Side effects of opioids include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness. Watch out because over time, your body will need more of the drug to get the same effect. Only a small percentage of people who are prescribed opioids become addicted, but there is a chance, so watch out that you don’t keep taking the drugs when you don’t need them.

4 life-style changes for chronic pain

  • Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that helps your body relax. When your body relaxes, you may find that the pain eases up. Find a quiet spot and sit in a relaxed position. Fill your abdomen with air and then let it out slowly. Feel the tension and tightness seeping out of your muscles.
  • Reduce your stress levels. Negative feelings like depression, anxiety, stress, and anger can increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. By learning to take control of stress, you may find some relief from chronic pain. Try calming music, guided imagery or massage.
  • Exercise. This a double win. Exercise strengthens muscles, helps keep your weight down, reduces heart disease risk, and controls blood sugar levels. It also increases endorphins. These are brain chemicals that help improve your mood and also blocking pain signals.
  • Distract yourself from pain. When you focus on pain, it makes it worse rather than better. Try to find something you like doing to keep yourself busy and stop you thinking about the pain. Try going to work. Research shows that people become less active and more depressed when they don’t work. If you aren’t up to working, then find a hobby that can distract you from the pain.


New Drug Approved for Thyroid Eye Disease

words that relate to hormones

A newly approved drug called teprotumumab will offer hope to adults with thyroid eye disease. Thyroid eye disease is a rare condition that develops in people with hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland.

The function of thyroid hormone in the body

Thyroid hormone penetrates into the nucleus of cells in the body. Here it switches on genes that control your bodily function. Here are some things thyroid hormone does:

  • increases your heart’s ability to contract
  • regulates the rate at which you breathe
  • affects the motility of your gastrointestinal system
  • influences the rate at which your bones remodel themselves
  • affects your mental alertness.

Regulating thyroid hormone levels

Your body carefully controls how much thyroid is available to the different organs. Both too and too little can be dangerous. The pituitary gland, which sits at the base of your brain, senses the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood. It releases a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Depending on how much you need, TSH turns on and off the production and release of T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland.

But sometimes things go wrong. If your thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone, you will have hypothyroidism. If your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, you will have hypothyroidism.

What causes hyperthyroidism?

This happens usually when the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid gland. It’s called Graves’ disease. Antibodies stimulate the TSH receptors in the thyroid. This leads to increased production and release of thyroid hormone. You’ll feel like your body is racing.

What are the symptoms?

  • a rapid heartbeat
  • profuse sweating
  • heat intolerance
  • insomnia, diarrhea, and weight loss
  • bulging of the eyes
  • a tremor

How Grave’s disease affects the eyes

The disorder can cause redness, swelling and a gritty feeling in the eyes. It can also cause dry eyes or excessive tearing, double vision and sensitivity to light. One of the most noticeable symptoms is bulging of the eyes. It may be difficult to completely close the eyes.

In people with the condition, inflammation in the back of the eye causes the eyes to bulge. The swelling may also squeeze the optic nerve. This causes vision problems which could lead to blindness.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism

Until now treatment options were medications, radioactive iodine and surgery. But things have changed for the better. The new drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It will be marketed under the brand name Tepezza.

Because thyroid eye disease is rare, the FDA gave this drug “orphan drug” status. This means companies are provided incentives to encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.



A New Way to Teach Language to People with Aphasia

writing of verbs

What’s the best way to teach language to people with aphasia? Over 1 million people in the United States have aphasia according to the National Aphasia Association. Aphasia is a language impairment that happens when the language center of the brain is damaged from a stroke or hemorrhage. Because of this damage, someone with aphasia has difficulty finding appropriate words and building grammatically correct sentences.

Speech and language therapists help people with aphasia in these three ways:

  • restoring as much language as possible
  • teaching how to compensate for lost language skills
  • finding other methods of communicating. New research shows the best way to teach language to people with aphasia.

How to remember verbs

The research sheds light on the best way to help people with aphasia remember verbs. Neurolinguists from HSE University have confirmed that it’s easier to retrieve verbs that include several elements instead of verbs that have only one element. Here’s what this means: for people with aphasia it’s easier to remember a verb like “knit” because this verb has two elements. Someone knits something. It’s harder for them to remember a verb like “run” because this verb has one element. The boy runs.

For language therapy to work, therapists need to know which verbs are more difficult and which are easier for people with aphasia. It is traditionally believed that for people with aphasia, it is more difficult to work with verbs with two elements. But is this always true?

Svetlana Malyutina and Valeria Zelenkova are researchers from the HSE Centre for Language and Brain. They found that for people with aphasia, a verb with two elements is actually easier to remember. That’s because the verb has more connections to other words. A verb like “read” is easier to remember because you’ll say, “The boy reads the book.” A verb like sit is harder to remember because it has only one element.

Facts on the research

The researchers worked with 40 people with aphasia.  They found that when retrieving single verbs, people with aphasia responded more accurately and faster when the verbs had two elements.

Then they gave the participants another task. They had to produce a sentence with the verb. Here, the traditional view was confirmed: verbs with a more complex argument structure caused more difficulties. That’s because these verbs require building a more complex grammatical structure in a sentence.

The bottom Line on how to teach language

This is what the bottom line means:

  • Verbs which have two elements like (‘to knit’, ‘to cook’, ‘to watch’, ‘to read’) should be used when teaching verb retrieval.
  • Verbs with one element (run, sit) should be used when teaching how to build a sentence.

Nearly 180,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year. This research goes a long way to helping them learn how to communicate.