Brushing up on stroke symptoms might mean saving a life

How stroke-aware are you?

Perhaps you know the warning signs — sudden numbness on one side of the body, trouble speaking, sudden blurred vision, trouble walking — or know someone who has experienced a stroke.

There’s never a bad time to brush up on stroke awareness, and May — National Stroke Awareness Month — is a good time to get up to speed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is our fifth-leading cause of death, accounting for 140,000 fatalities each year. It’s also largely preventable. Although things such as family history and age can increase stroke risk, up to 80 percent of strokes can be sidestepped with lifestyle changes that include controlling blood pressure and quitting smoking.

Full story at The Washington Post

Stroke: Can the brain ‘rewire’ itself to aid recovery?

Temporary sensory deprivation may improve recovery following a stroke by making space for the brain to rewire itself, suggests new research by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO.

A report published in Science Translational Medicine explains how the scientists came to this conclusion after observing stroke recovery in mice that had had their whiskers clipped.

The team revealed that mice were more likely to recover use of a front paw after a stroke if they had their whiskers trimmed.

A rodent’s whiskers are an important sensory organ with a rich nerve supply.

Full story at Medical News Today

Under 2 hours of walking per week may considerably prolong life

A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that even a little walking can significantly reduce mortality risk, compared with inactivity.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of intense physical activity, each week to reap “substantial” health benefits.

Some of these benefits include a reduced risk of premature death, cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Full story at Medical News Today

Horse, rhythm-and-music therapies may boost recovery after stroke

Horseback riding and rhythm-and-music therapies may improve stroke survivors’ perception of recovery, gait, balance, grip strength and cognition years after their stroke, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

A variety of interventions that engage patients in physical, sensory, cognitive and social activities simultaneously target a range of functions. Researchers said this combination of different activities and stimuli, rather than the individual components, appear to produce additional beneficial effects for stroke recovery.

“Significant improvements are still possible, even years after a stroke, using motivating, comprehensive therapies provided in stimulating physical and social surroundings to increase brain activity and recovery,” said Michael Nilsson, M.D., Ph.D. senior author and Director of the Hunter Medical Research Institute and Professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia and University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Full story of horse rhythm therapy after strokes at Medical News Today

Computer models could help design physical therapy regimens

After a stroke, patients typically have trouble walking and few are able to regain the gait they had before suffering a stroke. Researchers funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed a computational walking model that could help guide patients to their best possible recovery after a stroke. Computational modeling uses computers to simulate and study the behavior of complex systems using mathematics, physics, and computer science. In this case, researchers are developing a computational modeling program that can construct a model of the patient from the patient’s walking data collected on a treadmill and then predict how the patient will walk after different planned rehabilitation treatments. They hope that one day the model will be able to predict the best gait a patient can achieve after completing rehabilitation, as well as recommend the best rehabilitation approach to help the patient achieve an optimal recovery.

Currently, there is no way for a clinician to determine the most effective rehabilitation treatment prescription for a patient. Clinicians cannot always know which treatment approach to use, or how the approach should be implemented to maximize walking recovery. B.J. Fregly, Ph.D. and his team (Andrew Meyer, Ph.D., Carolynn Patten, PT., Ph.D., and Anil Rao, Ph.D.) at the University of Florida developed a computational modeling approach to help answer these questions. They tested the approach on a patient who had suffered a stroke.

Full story of computer models help design PT regiments at Science Daily

Researchers Find ‘Unsettling’ Uptick in Stroke Rates in Adults Under 55

A recent study of stroke rates has found that while rates have declined in patients older than age 55, there has been an uptick among younger populations—and the potential underlying factors are “unsettling.”

Authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, write that over the past 20 years, the incidence of stroke has decreased in many countries, but that trend may now be reversing itself. Researchers applied an “age-period-cohort” analysis to data from the Myocardial Infarction Data Acquisition System in New Jersey in an attempt to “unravel the separate effects due to aging, secular changes, and life course experience” on incidence of ischemic stroke and ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI). The time periods considered were 1995-1999 (period 1), 2000-2004 (period 2), 2005-2009 (period 3), and 2010-2014 (period 4).

Full story of uptick in stroke rates in adults under 55 at APTA

Study: 10 Modifiable Risk Factors Associated With 90% of Strokes Worldwide

Ten modifiable risk factors are associated with 90% of strokes, according to a recently published international study. Risk factors include physical inactivity, hypertension, poor diet, obesity, smoking, cardiac causes, diabetes, alcohol use, stress, and increased lipid levels.

The case-control study was “phase 2” of the larger INTERSTROKE study. According to lead author Martin McDonnell in a related Lancet podcast, the goals of this study were to describe and quantify stroke risk factors and identify any “regional variations by population characteristics or stroke subtype.”

Researchers examined patient data from 142 participating facilities in 32 countries representing all continents (26,919 participants and 13,472 controls). Participants were assessed with a variety of measures, as well as MRI or CT imaging and blood and urine samples, within 5 days of acute first stroke.

Full story of risk factors associated with strokes at APTA

Intensive Motor Learning Can Improve Function Poststroke, Even if it Begins a Year Later

Authors of a small study of motor learning (ML) treatment with patients poststroke claim that not only can the approach make a difference more than a year after the stroke event, but that ML alone works about as well as ML that uses robot-assisted training or functional electrical stimulation (FES). They say that the real key to success may have more to do with the intensity of therapy sessions—5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 12 weeks—than with any particular combination of treatments.

The randomized controlled trial compared treatment approaches among 35 patients who had experienced a stroke more than 1 year earlier and still had an upper extremity impairment. Participants were included if they had at least a trace muscle contraction in the wrist extensors, and mobility and function sufficient for independent activities.

Full story of motor learning and poststroke at APTA

Postpartum Exercise, Concussion, Stroke, and More: Catch Up With Move Forward Radio

The transformative power of physical therapy to treat diverse conditions is at the heart of recent Move Forward Radio episodes.

A twice-monthly podcast, available for free download from iTunes or at MoveForwardPT.com, Move Forward Radio is a terrific resource to share with your patients. Recent episodes include:

Pregnant and postpartum exercise
During pregnancy and childbirth a woman’s body goes through profound changes in a relatively brief period of time. For women who exercise during or after pregnancy, failure to respect those changes has the potential to lead to problems. Christy Martin, PT, DPT, SCS, who specializes in sports physical therapy, and Vicki Lukert, PT, PRPC, who specializes in pelvic health, outline how pregnant and postpartum women can exercise safely and how to spot warning signs for problems that might require medical attention.

Full story on stories from Move Forward Radio at APTA

PTNow Podcast: Physical Activity Guidelines for Stroke Rehab

A new PTNow podcast delivers firsthand information on the latest American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) recommendations for activity and exercise poststroke from the chair of the committee that updated the statement.

In a new “All Evidence Considered” podcast, Sandra Billinger, PT, PhD, FAHA, talks with PTNow Associate Editor Mary Blackinton, PT, EdD, GCS, about the AHA/ASA Physical Activity and Exercise Recommendations for Stroke Survivors.

To listen to the podcast, visit APTA