U.S. Stroke Deaths Fell 30% Over Past Decade

Stroke deaths in the United States have been dropping for more than 100 years and have declined 30 percent in the past 11 years, a new report reveals.

Sometimes called a brain attack, stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability.

Stroke, however, has slipped from the third-leading cause of death in the United States to the fourth-leading cause. This, and a similar decline in heart disease, is one of the 10 great public-health achievements of the 20th century, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even so, there is still more to be done, said George Howard, a professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Howard is co-author of a scientific statement describing the factors influencing the decline in stroke deaths. The statement is scheduled for publication in the journal Stroke.

“Stroke has been declining since 1900, and this could be a result of changes leading to fewer people having a stroke or because people are less likely to die after they have a stroke,” Howard said in a university news release. “Nobody really knows why, but several things seem to be contributing to fewer deaths from stroke.”

Full story of stroke death rates at Web MD

Heart attack, stroke prevention tool debated

The debate over new heart disease prevention guidelines proposed by U.S. cardiologists is being stirred.

In Tuesday’s issue of the medical journal The Lancet, a U.S. doctor and a researcher call the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology’s new guidelines a step forward but point to flaws in applying its risk calculator.

In their commentary, Dr. Paul Ridker and Nancy Cook of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital raised questions about applying the guidelines for primary prevention in people without a history of heart disease, stroke and few risk factors.

Unlike the previous guideline that focused on cholesterol levels, the latest edition uses a risk calculator based on factors such as age and high blood pressure. But estimates from the new calculator were roughly double the actual heart attacks or strokes observed in three major cohort studies, Ridker and Cook said.

“Reliance on the new risk prediction algorithm could put many primary prevention patients on [cholesterol lowering] statin therapy where there is little trial evidence while potentially denying the drug treatment to others where there is evidence,” the pair said in the commentary.

Full story of heart attacks and stroke at CBC News

Chickenpox May Increase Kids’ Risk of Stroke

Children who get chickenpox may be at increased risk for stroke soon after the infection, a new study from the United Kingdom suggests.

The study analyzed information from 49 children who were followed for about 6.5 years, and who experienced both chickenpox and stroke at some point during the study period.

Children were four times as likely to have  a stroke during the six months following infection with chickenpox, compared with their risk at other time points during the study.

However, stroke in children is rare — about 6 out of 100,000 children under 15 have a stroke each year, according to the National Stroke Association. That means that the risk that any given child will experience a stroke after chickenpox is quite small.

Still, the findings add to a growing body of research linking chickenpox with stroke. A 2001 study found that about 31 percent of children who had a stroke had chickenpox in the previous year, compared with 9 percent of all children had the infection in the last year.

Full story of chickenpox and stroke risk at Live Science

Minimizing Damage from Heart Attacks: Interview with Valentin Fuster, MD (VIDEO)

Every minute counts for heart attack victims. The amount of necrosis in the heart tissues increases as they are starved of blood flow during the attack. When damage is extensive and large sections of the heart die, heart attack survivors are at high risk for a second event — which can be heart failure, irregular heart rhythms or sudden death.

Protecting the heart after heart attack was the goal of Valentine Fuster, MD, PhD, and colleagues who are working toward a new, faster treatment for heart attack victims — published this month in the journal Circulation. They completed a multi-center heart attack study in Spain at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III, CNIC, in collaboration with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dr. Fuster is director ofMount Sinai Heart as well as general director of CNIC and the Physician-in-Chief at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The investigators injected the patient with a beta-blocker drug, metoprolol, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital — within 10 minutes of the patient’s heart attack. Guidelines recommend treatment within 24 hours with a pill form of metoprolol in order to reduce damage to the heart. The patients who received the early intervention had significantly better outcomes when their heart function was measured over the next 5 to 7 days.

Everyday Health spoke with Dr. Fuster to highlight the success of this new treatment, and any risks associated with it, along with a look at his plans for future studies.

Everyday Health: Is there any way to predict who is most at risk for having a heart attack?

Full story of damage from heart attackes at Everyday Health

Biological Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease Discovered

UC Davis Health System researchers have identified for the first time a biological pathway that is activated when blood sugar levels are abnormally high and causes irregular heartbeats, a condition known as cardiac arrhythmia that is linked with heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

Reported online today in the journal Nature, the discovery helps explain why diabetes is a significant independent risk factor for heart disease.

“The novel molecular understanding we have uncovered paves the way for new therapeutic strategies that protect the heart health of patients with diabetes,” said Donald Bers, chair of the UC Davis Department of Pharmacology and senior author of the study.

While heart disease is common in the general population, the risk is up to four times greater for diabetics, according to the National Institutes of Health. The American Heart Association estimates that at least 65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke and has emphasized the need for research focused on understanding this relationship.

Through a series of experiments, Bers, his UC Davis team and their collaborators at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine showed that the moderate to high blood glucose levels characteristic of diabetes caused a sugar molecule (O-linked N-acetylglucosamine, or O-GlcNAc) in heart muscle cells to fuse to a specific site on a protein known as calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, or CaMKII.

Full story of diabetes and heart disease at Science Daily

Working back from a stroke — at 4 years old

What does it take to save the life of a 4-year-old boy?

Quick thinking parents, for sure, who pack the child in the car at the first sign of trouble. A triage nurse at the front door of the hospital who looks at Alex Muller — his face drooping on the left side — and first says the word “stroke.” Then there is the team of specialists who rush to the emergency room, making quick and critical decisions.

And, for weeks afterward, there are the nurses and rehab specialists tasked with getting the child up and walking again — and who still have the bite marks on their arms to prove it.

But it is perhaps the boy’s spirit that is the most powerful force of all.

Now, nearly five months after he suffered a rare and potentially fatal stroke, Alex Muller — a 36-pound, towheaded, Thomas-the-train-loving preschooler — still battles to regain his strength. His left side remains stiff, and he hasn’t regained movement in his left arm and hand, which, after the stroke, he affectionately named Lefty.

But he is running and jumping again. And, on a recent day, he walked proudly into his parents’ kitchen, holding an iPad under his stiff left arm, and declared proudly: “Look what Lefty can do!”

Full story of working back from a stroke at the Chicago Tribune

7 Steps to Reduce Stroke Risk

A man’s last years ought to be spent strapped to the fighting chair of a game-fisher while battling a black marlin, not tethered to a nursing-home bed, incontinent and unable to talk.

Steps to Reduce Stroke RiskBut the latter is a likely scenario if you’re one of approximately 600,000 Americans who will have a stroke this year.

“Your chance of dying is 20 percent-but you have a 40 percent chance of being disabled and a 25 percent chance of being severely disabled,” says Dr. David Spence, director of the stroke-prevention center at the Robarts Research Institute in Canada.

10 Questions Every Man Must Ask His Doctor

An ischemic stroke—the kind that affects most men—occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked by arterial plaque that has broken loose and caused a blood clot. In fact, it’s just like a heart attack, only instead of heart cells dying for lack of blood, brain cells are kicking off-thousands of brain cells. Perhaps paralyzing half of your body. Or slurring your speech. Or plunging you into senility.

But a “brain attack” is not inevitable.

“Fifty to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented,” says Dr. David Wiebers, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic and author of Stroke-Free for Life. “Making the simple choices at 25, 35, or 45 years of age can make an enormous difference in preventing stroke when you’re in your 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

Full story of reducing stroke risk at ABC News

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10 stroke symptoms everyone should know

Stroke Symptoms Everyone Should KnowA stroke—a decrease in blood flow to the brain due to a clot or bleeding—is a medical emergency. And doctors often say “time is brain,” meaning the quicker you get treatment, the less likely it is that your brain tissue will be permanently damaged. About 80 percent of strokes are due to a clot (ischemic strokes) and the rest are due to bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

“There are treatments available for stroke that need to be provided within the first 3-4 hours, such as clot-busting medications. That is why urgent attention is critical,” Dr. Seemant Chaturvedi, professor of neurology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, said. So don’t waste time wondering if you should go to the hospital. If you or someone you know has the following symptoms, call 911.

Trouble seeing or blurry vision
Stroke can cause double vision, blurred vision or loss of vision in one eye.

But it may not be as well recognized as facial weakness, arm weakness, and speech problems.

When 1,300 people in the U.K. were asked what symptoms occur in stroke, only 44 percent knew vision loss is a strong indicator.

Full story of stroke symptoms at Fox News

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Migraine With Aura May Be Linked to All Stroke Types

Migraines Linked to All Stroke TypesWomen who have migraine headaches with aura are at increased risk for stroke, a new study indicates.

Migraine with aura is a migraine that’s preceded or accompanied by visual effects such as flashes of light or blind spots, or by tingling in the hand or face.


A study of almost 28,000 women in the United States found those who had migraine with aura were at greater risk for all types of strokes, according to the researchers, who are scheduled to present the findings Wednesday at a meeting of the International Headache Congress in Boston.

“Migraine with aura has been consistently linked with increased risk of ischemic stroke and there is also some evidence that it increases risk of hemorrhagic stroke,” lead author Dr. Tobias Kurth, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a congress news release.

An ischemic stroke is caused by blocked blood flow to the brain while a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain.

“In this study we sought to determine the importance of migraine with aura in stroke occurrence relative to other stroke risk factors,” Kurth added.

Full story of migraines linked to strokes at U.S. News Health

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The Lowdown on Antioxidants

Antioxidants Help with Healthy AgingStop me if you’ve heard this one: you should eat foods that are high in antioxidants, such as blueberries or pomegranates; they’re “good for you.” What does that even mean? Why are they so “good for you?”

Well, it starts with basic nutrition. Nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene, along with other substances in plant foods, are antioxidants that can help slow down or prevent damage to body cells that can lead to chronic and deadly health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, according to livestrong.com.

Here are some reasons why antioxidants are so important to your health, courtesy of livestrong.com.

Protection Against Heart Disease
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a diet high in fruits, vegetables and other foods that contain antioxidants to help fight cardiovascular disease. They do not recommend antioxidant supplements, however, because there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that they have any beneficial effect on heart disease.

Full story of antioxidants at The Safety Report

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