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.

 

New Use for Diabetes Drug Gives Hope to Diabetes Patients

new drug in lab

The FDA recently granted new use for diabetes drug Farxiga. There are 30 million people living with type 2 diabetes in the U.S. Heart failure, before heart attack or stroke, is one of the earliest cardiovascular complications for them. But there is new hope now.

Recent research shows that the diabetes drug Farxiga can reduce the risk of hospitalization for heart failure in adults who have type 2 diabetes and established heart disease or risk factors for it.

Farxiga is a drug that lowers blood sugar by making the kidneys remove sugar from the body via the urine. The drug helps control diabetes and reduces the risk of other diabetes-related complications. Now, with the new FDA approval, doctors are also using it to reducing hospitalizations from heart failure.

What the study of Farxiga showed

The FDA granted the new use for Farxiga based on the results of a new study. In that study, more than 17,000 patients with type 2 diabetes and heart disease or at risk for heart disease were randomly assigned to get either the medication or placebo. Researches followed these patients for more than 4 years.

The results? People treated with Farxiga were 27% less likely to be hospitalized for heart failure than patients given placebo. There were no differences found in rates of heart attack, stroke or deaths from heart disease. While, the benefit is modest, it’s still a benefit.

Possible complications

But it’s not all smooth sailing. There are possible side effects for people who take Farxiga. These include low blood pressure, kidney injury, very low blood sugar, and genital yeast infections and urinary tract infections.  UTIs are common because Farxiga removes extra sugar into the urine.

The list price of Farxiga is about $500 for a 30-day supply. Health insurance, coupons, assistance programs and other factors may reduce those costs. If you’re a diabetes patient and think that Farxiga could help you, make an appointment to discuss this with your doctor.

Read this post to stay updated with another development in the treatment of diabetes.

 

Can a Gout Drug Help After Heart Attacks?

autumn c

Colchicine is a cheap drug that’s been around for centuries as a gout treatment. Now researchers think that it might also help after heart attacks. In one trial, colchicine reduced by as much as 34% a heart attack survivor’s combined risk of the following:

  • dying from heart disease
  • having cardiac arrest
  • a heart attack
  • a stroke
  • angioplasty.

Colchicine comes from a plant called the autumn crocus.

Gout drug can help after heart attacks

The trial showed that managing inflammation is a good way to reduce cardiovascular risk. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston were thrilled. The research showed that a broadly available and relatively safe generic drug can now be used for something else too.

Patients with gout and with pericarditis (inflammation of the heart’s lining) both take colchicine to help manage the condition. That’s because both of these conditions are caused by inflammation. After a few tablets of colchicine, the pain, the warmth, the redness, and all the inflammatory signs go away.

That’s why the researchers decided to see if colchicine could help after heart attacks. The trial involved more than 4,700 heart patients. Half of the patients tool a daily low-dose colchicine tablets and the rest took a placebo. Nearly all patients also received the drug regimen normally prescribed to heart attack survivors — aspirin, blood thinners, statins and/or beta blockers.

Three years later, results showed that people on colchicine were doing better than those taking a placebo. The people on colchicine saw a 34% reduction in all adverse heart events. In addition, the trial also found that patients taking colchichine had a 74% reduction in stroke risk, and a 50% reduction in their likelihood of being rushed to hospital for angioplasty/stenting after suffering chest pain.

Is colchicine safe for after heart attacks?

The drug also appears to be safe. The most concerning side effect appears to be an increased risk of pneumonia, which affected about 1% of colchicine patients. But thanks to this research, heart doctors will be thinking long and hard about adding colchicine to the drug cocktail prescribed to heart attack patients.

Falls in Stroke Patients: How to Prevent Them

 

sign showing danger of falling

Stroke patients have a high risk of falling. 7% of falls occur in the first week after stroke when the patient is still in the hospital. Post stroke studies show that up to 37% of patients fall between 1 and 6 months and up to 73% of patients fall one year after a stroke.

And the statistics get more frightening. If you’ve had a fall after a stroke, you are more likely to have a second fall. If fact, the risk for falling after the patient has fallen once actually double. Falls lead to all types of injury and hip fractures are the most serious consequence of a fall.

The identification of patients at risk may be a first step toward the implementation of fall-prevention measures for these patients.

How to prevent falls in stroke patients

Fortunately there are several steps that you can take to prevent falls.

Provide information

  • Hospital staff must make an assessment of the patient’s risk for falling.
  • Staff must provide information that can teach the patient and the family how to prevent a fall.
  • Patients with stroke should enroll in a formal fall prevention program during hospitalization.

Remove hazards

  • Put things within hand’s reach so that the patient isn’t tempted to stretch.
  • Keep the bed at the proper height during transfer and when the patient rises to a standing position.
  • Remove environmental hazards that could make the patient slip or trip.
  • Encourage the patient to ask for help. Many patients fall from losing their balance indoors or walking to the toilet.

Long term solutions

  • Check the patient’s vision to make sure he sees clearly.
  • Install additional night lighting.
  • Check the patients medications. Some drugs can cause dizziness and lead to loss of balance. These drugs can sometimes be replaced with drugs that have fewer side effects.
  • Studies show that long-term stroke survivors with depressive symptoms have the highest risk of falling. Take steps to remain positive.
  • Stroke patients with poor postural control are more likely to fall. Enroll in an exercise class to gain muscle strength.
  • Make sure you’re able to use your walking aid safely.
  • Some studies show that sufficient vitamin D levels can help to reduce falls.
  • Check chairs, toilets, and safety grab bars for potential safety problems.

Do you Know These Good Foods for Your Heart?

fruits and vegetables

Nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide are related to heart disease.  By eating good foods for your heart you can improve your blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation.

Fruit and Vegetables

  • Avocados: These are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. These fats have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.
  • Oranges: Oranges contain the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin. They also have potassium, which helps control blood pressure.
  • Beans: These are packed with heart-healthy nutrients. Beans contain resistant starch. This resists digestion and is fermented by the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Resistant starch may improve heart health by decreasing blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Beans also contain folate, antioxidants, and magnesium which help lower blood pressure. The fiber in beans helps control cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • Leafy green vegetables: Opt for spinach, kale and collard greens are good foods for your heart. These are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re a great source of vitamin K, which protects your arteries and helps proper blood clotting.
  • Sweet Potatoes: These have a low glycemic index, which mean that they  won’t cause the spike in blood sugar that white potatoes cause. They also have fiber, vitamin A, and lycopene.

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds: These contain plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. They may help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
  • Flaxseed: These tiny seeds contain fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids. All three are great for your heart.

Whole Grains

Whole grains include all three nutrient-rich parts of the grain: germ, endosperm and bran. Compared to refined grains, whole grains are higher in fiber, which may help reduce “bad” cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. Common types of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa. You can replace white rice in your diet with buckwheat or quinoa.

Fish

  • Salmon: This fish is rich in omega-3s. These are healthy fats that may lessen the risk of heart rhythm disorders and lower blood pressure. They may also lower triglycerides and curb inflammation.
  • Tuna: Tuna also has omega-3s. Albacore (white tuna) has more omega-3s than other tuna varieties. You’ll find omega-3s in these fish also: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies.

Drinks

  • Go for red wine if you drink alcohol. Red wine contains resveratrol and catechins. These are antioxidants that may protect artery walls. Alcohol can also boost you levels of good cholesterol.
  • Green tea has a number of health benefits. Fans claim that green tea increases fat burning and improves insulin sensitivity. Green tea contains polyphenols and catechins. These are antioxidants that prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation.

Here are some other things that are good for your heart.

How Pets Can Help Fight Loneliness in Seniors

 

White puppy

Loneliness in seniors is on the rise. One in five Americans say that they feel lonely and nearly half of our seniors say they often feel lonely. Loneliness can affect you physically and mentally. According to a new study of social isolation published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in May, loneliness doesn’t just affect your moods. It can affect your health and especially your heart.

But here’s the good news. A new survey by Home Instead, Inc. says that regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in older adults. Researchers found that petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird can brighten up the mood of a lonely senior.

How Pets Help with Loneliness in Seniors

Stress relief

Spending time with a pet releases endorphins. Endorphins have a calming effect and reduce levels of stress. This is especially good for patients who suffer from dementia.  Dementia patients can become stressed when they are unable to communicate with people or are unable to express their ideas or feelings. Having pets around allows them to bond with animals without relying on any language.

Self-Confidence

Spending time with pets gives seniors a sense of purpose and boosts their self-confidence and improves self-esteem. Seniors feel independent and happily take on the responsibility of owning a pet.

Exercise

Seniors who own pets are more likely to get recommended levels of exercise. As a result, they have lower blood pressure and less stress. Exercise also improves motor skills and reduces the risk of joint stiffness, falls and pain. Seniors with arthritis especially benefit from petting an animal. Seniors with a risk of heart disease also benefit from spending time with a pet, because this positively spent time helps to lower blood pressure levels. Interacting with animals actually lessens the perception of pain and discomfort.

The chance to socialize with other people

Not everyone wants to own a pet. But don’t worry: seniors experience the same positive feelings even when they visit with pets owned by family, friends or neighbors. Even interactions for half an hour a week can make a difference.

 

Four Surprising Things that are Good for your Heart

flowers in the shape of a heart

Can taking a nap be good for your heart? What about laughter, gratitude and chocolate?

Take a Nap

A new study shows that napping once or twice a week seems to cut in half people’s risk of heart attack, strokes and heart disease, compared with folks who never nap. But don’t overdo it, because more frequent napping provides no extra benefit.

Until now researchers have debated over whether naps are good or bad. Many researchers tell you to avoid napping because it will give you lousy nighttime sleep. This new research puts that theory in question. Still, researchers couldn’t say exactly why a couple of naps each week might do you good. Perhaps the extra sleep relieves stress.

In another study, University of Chicago researchers found that even one extra hour of sleep decreased the odds of hardening of the coronary arteries by 33 percent.

Have a Good Laugh

Research at University College in London says that laughing loud and long relaxes the walls of your arteries. This in turn increases blood flow for as long as 45 minutes. To be sure that you get enough laughter, aim for 15 minutes of chuckles.

Say Thank You

A decade-long study of more than 1,700 adults published in the European Heart Journal reports that adults who have a positive outlook on life reduce their chance of a heart attack. Keeping a gratitude journal is probably the best way to increase the amount of gratitude that you feel.

Eat Dark Chocolate

Eat dark chocolate to increase your intake of polyphenols. Polyphenols fight against free radicals, which are produced in our body and can cause cell damage. Polyphenols also protect the heart. The Harvard School of Public Health studied almost 8,000 Americans around age 65 for five years. They found that those who ate chocolate and sweets up to three times a month lived almost a year longer than those who ate too much chocolate or none at all. So aim for the right amount.

Here’s the rundown of four things that are good for your heart: after you’ve had a nap, eat chocolate while you watch a comedy…then write about it in your journal.

Help Someone Survive a Stroke by Spotting the Symptoms

Heart pain is a symptom of a stroke

If you know how to spot the symptoms, you could help someone survive a stroke. Strokes can happen to anyone. In fact, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the U.S.

What is a Stroke

There are two main types of stroke:

  • Ischemic stroke 87% of all strokes in the U.S. are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke happens when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked. A “transient ischemic attack” (TIA) happens when blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked for a short time. It then resumes and all symptoms disappear. This is also called a “ministroke.”
  • Hemorrhagic stroke This stroke happens when blood seeps into the brain due to either a leaking aneurysm or a weakened blood vessel.

Spot the Symptoms and Survive a Stroke

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has an easy was to spot the symptoms of stroke: F.A.S.T. This stands for:  face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911. Let’s look at each.

  • Face Drooping Is one side of the face drooping or numb? Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?
  • Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms and watch to see if one arm drifts downward.
  • Speech Is the person’s speech slurred making it hard to understand him? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Time to Call 9-1-1 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately. Brain damage begins to happen very quickly. Brain cells begin dying within a few minutes of not getting oxygen. The faster you get help, the better the chances of recovery.

More Warning Signs

Here are some other signs to watch out for. They need to be immediately checked out.

  • sudden confusion
  • severe and unexplained headaches
  • difficulty with vision
  • dizziness or sudden numbness on one side of the body.

When you call 911 and describe your symptoms, upon recognizing you may be having a stroke, paramedics in most areas of the country will automatically take you to the nearest designated stroke center. Here you will receive comprehensive care.

Eight Things Caregivers of Stroke Patients Should Know

 

caregivers-hands-holding-a-heart-imag

These tips for caregivers of stroke patients can make your work easier. When you have a sort of road map to follow, you’ll feel more confident that you are moving in the right direction.

Exercise and Medication

Encourage daily rehabilitation exercises

Many stroke patients struggle with motor impairments after stroke because the parts of the brain that control these movements was damaged. By making sure that your loved one does daily rehabilitation exercises, you will be helping him to rewire his brain.

Don’t ignore falls

Falls after stroke are common. They can lead to complications like hip fractures. Remember that a fall can be serious. If you notice that your loved one is in pain or has bruising or bleeding, take him to the emergency room.

Help without taking over

When you see the person you are caring for struggling to do something, don’t jump in to help. Stroke patients will benefit from seeing that they can do things on their own. If you see that he isn’t managing, then move in to help.

Side effects of medication

Most stroke survivors are put on several types of medication. They may need blood thinners, cholesterol control and other medications. Since all  medications have some side effects, keep a log your loved one’s behavior and symptoms so that you can spot and deal with any problems.

Emotional Support

Emotional healing after stroke

You can expect to see many emotional changes after stroke. You may notice sudden outbursts of crying or laughter. These are a common and can be treated with positive psychology or medication. Sometimes stroke patients may feel anxious. Some patients may grieve the memory loss that often comes with a stroke. These feelings are natural. As a caregiver, you must offer support and encouragement.

Stop depression

Grieving that does not let up may be a sign of depression. As many as 30-50 percent of stroke survivors become depressed in the early or later phases of post-stroke. Be aware of the moods of the person you are caring for so that you can make sure he gets the right treatment.

Insurance

Since insurance coverage varies a lot, you’ll need to consult with your loved one’s healthcare provider, case manager, social worker or insurance company to find out how much and how long insurance will cover medical and rehabilitation services in and out of the hospital. This will help you plan for the expenses that your patient will have to cover himself.

Take Care of the Caregiver

We’ve covered some tips for caregivers of stroke patients. This next tip is for you. Care giving is a big responsibility. It can quickly lead to burnout if you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure to schedule some solo downtime into your day so that you can recharge. Do you like to meditate, go for walks, read a good book? Taking care of yourself will help you take care of your loved one.

How a Stroke Affects your Short-term Memory and Tips to Cope

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

A stroke often leads to short-term memory loss. Most people don’t realize that a stroke doesn’t leave you with just physical limitations. After a stroke many people struggle with cognitive tasks like planning, solving problems and concentrating. Some stroke survivors struggle with aphasia. About one third of stroke survivors find they have short-term memory problems.

Types of Memory

Your memory is your ability to take in, store and retrieve information. There are different types of memory.

  • When you remember what your neighbor looks like and where you live, you are using your visual or spatial memory.
  • When you remember that your wife told you to buy milk, you are using your verbal memory.
  • Your long-term memory recollects information from years ago.
  • Your short-term memory helps you recalls information from the recent past.

Without your short-term memory, you may find yourself getting lost in familiar places, mixing up instructions and stumped to pay for that milk .
So what can you do?

Brain Stimulation Training

Thankfully, the brain has a certain amount of plasticity. That means that the brain can re-organize itself. If part of the brain was damaged by a stroke, the brain can learn to use different areas to carry out the tasks that were once assigned to those parts. Amazing, right?

How to Stimulate Your Brain

  • Try taking up a new hobby.
  • Exercise because the fitter you are physically, the fitter you will be mentally.
  • Use memory cues. Link a the thing you want to remember to a familiar name or song.

Tips for Short-term Memory Loss

Losing your short-term memory is stressful. You can lessen the stress by learning how to cope with it. Here are some suggestions:

  • Stick to a routine.
  • Leave yourself notes to remind yourself to do things like checking the gas is off before you leave the house.
  • Make endless lists of the chores you need to do.
  • Always store things like your glasses in the same place.
  • Set up direct debits for bills so you don’t forget to pay them.
  • Label your bags and sweaters in case you forget them somewhere.

You may find that certain medications, alcohol, lack of sleep, poor nutrition and stress make your memory loss worse. So keep tabs on what affects you. The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke, but some survivors continue to recover well into the first and second year after their stroke. So don’t give up.