Wellness Wednesday: Thinking F.A.S.T. can help save lives

Do you know how to recognize a stroke? Do you know what steps to take if someone is having a stroke? Thinking F.A.S.T. can help save lives and improve stroke recovery.

May-stroke1May is American Stroke Awareness Month. It is very important for you to know that anyone can have a stroke. Strokes can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans—or one person every four minutes—died from stroke, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Warning Signs

Most people don’t know the warning signs of stroke or what to do when one happens. Stroke is an emergency. But acting quickly can tremendously reduce the impact of stroke.

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Brain cells begin to die.

Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy if you remember to think FAST:

F= Face  Drooping

Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A= Arm Weakness

Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S= Speech Difficulty

Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T= Time to call 9-1-1

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for stroke. Some risk factors, such as gender, ethnicity and age, are uncontrollable. But there are some risk factors that you can control.

Some controllable risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Illegal drug use

Taking control is the first step to managing your risk.iStock_000042882876_Medium

  • Get moving. If you are healthy, participate in moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least 40 minutes per day, three to four times per week.
  • Watch your diet. Consider reducing sodium intake to Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets.
  • Know your numbers. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in check.
  • Know your family medical history. If high blood pressure and diabetes are common conditions, it’s important you ask your doctor what you can do to prevent them.
  • Drink moderately. Studies show a strong connection between alcohol and stroke so make sure to moderate your alcohol intake. No more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
  • Stop Smoking. Smoking decreases your health in general, but smokers also have 2-4 times the risk for stroke compared to nonsmokers and those who have quit for more than 10 years.

Source: American Stroke Association


More Information:

Let’s Talk About: Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs

Let’s Talk About: Hemorrhagic Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Risk Factors for Stroke

Let’s Talk About: High Blood Pressure and Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke

Wellness Wednesday: PVD, PAD, VTE, DVT and PE Can Spell Trouble

And ABC, 123, Do-Re-Mi, right? That’s a lot of shorthand … but this isn’t just silly text speak. Each of these acronyms represents a very serious cardiovascular-related condition that requires medical attention and treatment.

veinsPVD = Peripheral Vascular Disease
PAD = Peripheral Artery Disease
VTE = Venous Thromboembolism
DVT = Deep Vein Thrombosis
PE = Pulmonary Embolism

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disorder that causes blood vessels outside of the heart and brain to narrow or block. This can happen in either the arteries or veins and is most common in the legs but can also be present in the arms, stomach or kidneys.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is specifically, a narrowing of the arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head—again, most common in the legs. Like coronary artery disease, the most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside the artery wall. Plaque reduces the amount of blood flow to the limbs and decreases the oxygen and nutrients available to the tissue. Clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the vessel and potentially blocking off major arteries.

The most common symptoms of PAD involving the lower extremities are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, this pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again. Left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation. And if the blockage occurs in a carotid artery, it can cause a stroke.

Risk Factors for PAD

Luckily, PAD is easily diagnosed by non-invasive methods … but you have to get checked out! Many people dismiss leg pain as a normal sign of aging. You may think it’s arthritis or just “stiffness” from getting older. If you’re having any kind of recurring pain, talk to your healthcare professional and describe the pain as accurately as you can. If you have risk factors for PAD, you should ask your doctor about PAD even if you aren’t having symptoms.

Venous Thromboembolism, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism(2).
Click to view larger

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot in your lungs. The clot often forms in the deep veins of the lower legs or thighs. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If the blood clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream, it’s called a venous thromboembolism (VTE) and may represent a life-threatening condition. A PE is usually a VTE that travels from the leg to the lungs. PE is a very serious condition which can cause death.

People who have just had surgery, those who are sedentary and/or obese are at a higher risk of developing a DVT. Don’t delay treatment if you have any symptoms or risk factors for DVT.

Talk to your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms or risk factors. There are non-invasive treatments available to help dissolve clots before they break off and become life-threatening.

To find a Mercy Health cardiovascular physician, visit our Find-a-Doctor tool on our website at www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-physician.

Sources: American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic


More Information:

An Important Reason to Take Your Socks Off [PDF]

What is PAD? [PDF]

Prevention and Treatment of PAD

What is VTE? [PDF]

Who is at Risk for VTE? [PDF]

Risk in the Veins

Know Thrombosis [Infographic]

Wellness Wednesday: Hypertension, The Silent Killer

High blood pressure or hypertension is a symptomless “silent killer” that quietly damages blood vessels and leads to serious health threats.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. It is recorded as two numbers and a written as a ratio.
normal blood pressure digital monitor

  • Systolic: The top number in the ratio, which is also the higher of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic: The bottom number in the ratio, which is also the lower of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

In order to survive and function properly, your tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of arteries, veins and capillaries. This pressure—blood pressure—is the result of two forces: it rises with the first force (systolic) as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries. And it falls during the second force (diastolic) when the heart relaxes between beats.

What is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?

Blood Pressure InfographicHypertension occurs when your blood pressure is consistently too high. High blood pressure (HBP) causes harm by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels—making them work harder and less efficiently.

Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg. It is normal for blood pressures to change when you sleep, wake up, or are excited or nervous. When you are active, it is normal for your blood pressure to increase. However, once the activity stops, your blood pressure returns to your normal baseline range. Blood pressure also normally rises with age and body size.

Stages of High Blood Pressure in Adults

This chart is a guide for healthy adults. People with diabetes or chronic kidney disease should keep their blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg.

Stages

Systolic
(top number)

 

Diastolic
(bottom number)

Prehypertension

120–139

OR

80–89

High blood pressure Stage 1

140–159 OR

90–99

High blood pressure Stage 2

160 or higher

OR

100 or higher

You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure could be quietly causing damage that can threaten your health. The best prevention is knowing your numbers and making changes that matter in order to prevent and manage high blood pressure.


About 85 million Americans (one out of every three adults over age 20) have high blood pressure. And nearly 20 percent don’t even know they have it.


How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Your Health?

siluet_mochevojOver time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the tissues inside the arteries. In turn, LDL (bad) cholesterol forms plaque along tiny tears in the artery walls, signifying the start of atherosclerosis.

The more the plaque increases, the narrower the insides of the arteries become—raising blood pressure and starting a vicious circle that further harms your arteries, heart and the rest of your body. This can ultimately lead to other conditions ranging from arrhythmia to heart attack and stroke. It can also lead to kidney disease as well as blindness.

Hypertension and Stroke

High blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke because it’s the Number 1 cause of stroke.

Similar to a heart attack, most strokes occur when blood vessels in the brain narrow or become clogged, cutting off blood flow to brain cells. This type (ischemic) represents about 87% of all strokes. High blood pressure causes damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels. So this adds to any blockage that is already within the artery wall.

The remaining 13% of strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain (hemorrhagic). Chronic high blood pressure or aging blood vessels are the main causes of this type of stroke. The force of HBP puts more pressure on the blood vessels until they eventually rupture over time.

Causes of Hypertension

A number of factors and variables can put you at a greater risk for developing hypertension. Understanding these risk factors can help you be more aware of how likely you are to develop high blood pressure.

Common hereditary and physical risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Family history: If your parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure, there’s an increased chance that you’ll get it, too.
  • Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to get high blood pressure. As we age, our blood vessels gradually lose some of their elastic quality, which can contribute to increased blood pressure.
  • Gender: Until age 45, men are more likely to get high blood pressure than women are. From age 45 to 64, men and women get high blood pressure at similar rates. And at 65 and older, women are more likely to get high blood pressure.
  • Race: African-Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more often than people of any other racial background in the United States.

Lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • An unhealthy diet, especially one high in sodium
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking too much alcohol

What can you do to prevent or lower high blood pressure?

Eat Less SaltMaintain an active lifestyle and exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Get plenty of rest and eat a healthy, low-sodium, high-potassium diet. These are the best ways to affect your blood pressure. When these don’t work, your doctor may prescribe certain medications, such as a diuretic or beta blocker, to help lower your blood pressure.

Talk with your doctor about blood pressure and the risk of heart disease or stroke. If you would like to find a Mercy physician, visit our Find-A-Doctor tool on our website at: www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association


Before you go … check out Mercy Health System’s 2017 Go Red Dance Video to support American Heart Month!


More Information:

What Is High Blood Pressure? [PDF]

High Blood Pressure and Stroke [PDF]

Why Should I Limit Sodium? [PDF]

What Can I Do To Improve My Blood Pressure? [PDF]

Blood Pressure Log [PDF]

Sodium Tracker [PDF]

High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator

Mercy Health Library: High Blood Pressure

Mercy Health Library: Stroke

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Your Cholesterol in Check

SeniorsSeptember is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. More than 102 million American Adults have total cholesterol levels above healthy levels (at or above 200 mg/dL). More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and in many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy.

Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood and is based on the HDL, LDL and triglycerides numbers.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

HDL cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because having high levels can reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Low HDL cholesterol puts you at higher risk for heart disease. People with high blood triglycerides usually also have lower HDL cholesterol. Genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

LDL cholesterol makes up the majority of the body’s cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease and stroke. However, your LDL number should no longer be the main factor in guiding treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association. For patients taking statins, the guidelines say they no longer need to get LDL cholesterol levels down to a specific target number. A diet high in saturated and trans fats raises LDL cholesterol.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that your body uses for energy. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke

How do you know if your cholesterol is high?

cholesterolHigh cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if it is not enough, through medications.

It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.

Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and family history

Conditions That Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Diabetes mellitus increases the risk for high cholesterol. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. So this causes sugars to build up in the blood.

Behaviors That Increase Your Risk for High Cholesterol

Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.

Physical Inactivity: Not getting enough physical activity can make you gain weight, which can lead to high cholesterol.

Obesity: Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher triglycerides and higher LDL cholesterol, and lower HDL cholesterol. In addition to high cholesterol, obesity can also lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Talk to your health care team about a plan to reduce your weight to a healthy level.

Family History Can Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Portrait Of Extended Family Group In ParkWhen members of a family pass traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity.

Genetic factors likely play some role in high cholesterol, heart disease and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of high cholesterol share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you are more likely to have high cholesterol. You may need to get your cholesterol levels checked more often than people who do not have a family history of high cholesterol.

The risk for high cholesterol can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as eating an unhealthy diet.

Some people have an inherited genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age.

If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it?

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • Low-fat and high-fiber food (Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains).
  • For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke or quit if you smoke.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association


More Information:

Know the Facts About High Cholesterol [CDC Fact Sheet]

American Heart Association’s Cholesterol SmartHub

Wellness Wednesday: Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

iStock_000069596201_FullWe’ve all forgotten something at one time or another. Where did I put my keys? What did I need to get at the store? Did I remember to lock the door? Why did I come into this room?

For most of us, the fast pace of life and how quick thoughts might go in and out of our heads is the likely culprit. If we slow down and try to remember the last time we had our keys, or retrace our steps from the room back to where we were, we can usually jog our memory (most of the time).

As we age, we find that some of these moments happen with a little more frequency. But what happens when it’s not just a routine bout of forgetfulness? And how can you tell if it’s something more serious?

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

Many of us probably know someone who has/had Alzheimer’s disease or who has been a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve all heard the term. Most of us know that it is generally an older person who has trouble with short-term memory loss.

But what really is Alzheimer’s? Is it the same as dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Memory loss is one symptom of dementia.

There are several different types of dementia. Each can be caused by different factors, such as stroke or thyroid issues. So, it is important to visit an expert to be sure you’re following the best treatment pathway.

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases. However, the following conditions can also cause dementia: Parkinson’s diseaseCreutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Vascular dementia can also be brought on after suffering a stroke.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alz-risksAlzheimer’s disease is a slow, progressive brain disease that currently has no cure. It can be treated with medications which may temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for some.

The most common and obvious symptoms of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information, such as recent conversations, names or events; apathy and depression are also often early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

For many loved ones, the behavior caused by Alzheimer’s is the most challenging and distressing effect of the disease. Persons with Alzheimer’s have been known to ‘wander’ out of the house at all times of the day or night. They become confused or agitated easily and are more prone to outbursts. They may experience restlessness, and  you might find that their behavior becomes more repetitive, with them pacing and/or shredding paper or napkins with their hands. The chief cause of these behavioral symptoms is the progressive deterioration of brain cells.

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

10warningsigns-2Alzheimer’s symptoms are separated into stages; early-stage, middle-stage and late-stage. The duration of each stage is different for each individual and can last for years.

Read about each Stage here.

Early-Stage (Mild) Alzheimer’s

Many times, some of the early-stage symptoms go unnoticed, because the individual is still able to function independently. Few difficulties and behaviors may be noticed by some who close to the person, but might be shrugged off as part of normal aging.

Common difficulties include:

  • Problems coming up with the right word or name
  • Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
  • Having greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings
  • Forgetting material that one has just read
  • Losing or misplacing a valuable object
  • Increasing trouble with planning or organizing

Middle-Stage (Moderate) Alzheimer’s

The middle-stage is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. A person with middle-stage Alzheimer’s may begin confusing words and become frustrated, even combatant, and acting in unexpected or inappropriate ways.

At this point, symptoms will be noticeable to others and may include:

  • Forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history
  • Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
  • Confusion about where they are or what day it is
  • The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
  • Trouble controlling bladder and bowels in some individuals
  • An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
  • Personality and behavioral changes, including compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding

Late-Stage (Severe) Alzheimer’s

In late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may need extensive help with daily activities, and have trouble communicating needs or pain.

At this stage, individuals may:

  • Require full-time, around-the-clock assistance with daily personal care
  • Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings
  • Require high levels of assistance with daily activities and personal care
  • Experience changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and, eventually, swallow
  • Have increasing difficulty communicating
  • Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia

Caregivers and Loved Ones

Often, the responsibilities and decision-making are placed on the closest loved ones. A spouse, who may be dealing with his or her own aging difficulties, and adult children of Alzheimer’s patients are often left to deal with a lot of information, appointments, stress, healthcare decisions and more. Caregivers may feel like they are alone. They may feel guilty for a variety of reasons including asking for help, needing a break, losing their temper or not being able to ‘do it all’.

No one can do it all alone. Caregivers need a strong support system. Caregivers have access to respite care, in-home care, adult day centers and more. There are also support groups for caregivers to get together with people who are in the same situation.

Alzheimers

Advance Directives

One way for caregivers to ensure that they know the wishes of their loved ones is to talk about and complete advance directives before they are thrust into a situation where the person is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. Whether it’s Alzheimer’s, another form of dementia, or any other condition that could potentially leave a person unable to express his/her wishes, having an advance directive, which includes a living will and durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare is an important part of your medical file.

Without these documents, a loved one will not know what types of treatment or interventions you want. And if you are unmarried, no one is legally able to make those decisions if you have not declared a healthcare POA ahead of time.

What to Do?

If you suspect a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, your first step should be to visit his/her family doctor. He or she can direct you to a specialist who will look at the person’s full medical history, conduct tests and determine the best treatment options for your loved one. Complete this checklist and bring it with you to the doctor’s visit.

For additional information and caregiver support information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.

For information about early onset (under 65) Alzheimer’s disease, visit http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_early_onset.asp


Source: Alzheimer’s Association

 

Wellness Wednesday: Controlling Risk and Thinking F.A.S.T. Can Help Prevent and Treat Stroke

May-stroke1May is American Stroke Awareness Month. It is very important for you to know that anyone can have a stroke. Strokes can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans—or one person every four minutes—died from stroke, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

There are many risk factors for stroke. Some risk factors, such as gender, ethnicity and age, are uncontrollable. But there are some risk factors that you can control.

Some controllable risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Illegal drug use

Taking control is the first step to managing your risk.

  • Get moving. If you are healthy, participate in moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least 40 minutes per day, three to four times per week.
  • Watch your diet. Consider reducing sodium intake to <2300 mg/day and consider diets rich in fruits and vegetables such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets.
  • Know your numbers. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in check.
  • Know your family medical history. If high blood pressure and diabetes are common conditions, it’s important you ask your doctor what you can do to prevent them.
  • Drink moderately. Studies show a strong connection between alcohol and stroke so make sure to moderate your alcohol intake. No more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
  • Stop Smoking. Smoking decreases your health in general, but smokers also have 2-4 times the risk for stroke compared to nonsmokers and those who have quit for more than 10 years.

Warning Signs

iStock_000042882876_Medium

Most people don’t know the warning signs of stroke or what to do when one happens. Stroke is an emergency. But acting quickly can tremendously reduce the impact of stroke.

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Brain cells begin to die.

Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy if you remember to think FAST:

F= Face  Drooping

Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A= Arm Weakness

Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S= Speech Difficulty

Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T= Time to call 9-1-1

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Source: American Stroke Association


More Information:

Let’s Talk About: Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs

Let’s Talk About: Hemorrhagic Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Risk Factors for Stroke

Let’s Talk About: High Blood Pressure and Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke

 

Wellness Wednesday: What is Alzheimer’s?

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type.

Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms

10warningsigns-2Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing.

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information.

Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.

People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimer’s or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or a non-Alzheimer’s dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.

Prevalence

An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2015.

Alz-risks

  • An estimated 5.1 million are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Of the 5.1 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., 3.2 million are women and 1.9 million are men.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase. By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million—a 40 percent increase from 2015. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5.1 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.

In 2015, an estimated 700,000 people in the U.S. age 65 and older will die with Alzheimer’s.

As the population of the U.S. ages, Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death. Although deaths from other major causes have decreased significantly, official records indicate that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased significantly. Between 2000 and 2013, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent.


Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.


Cost of Alzheimer’s

In 2014, friends and family of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care.

  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
  • Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Over half of primary caregivers of people with dementia take care of parents.
  • It is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2014.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the costliest chronic diseases to society.

  • In 2015, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $226 billion, with half of the costs borne by Medicare.
  • Average per-person Medicare spending for people age 65 or older with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is three times higher than for seniors without dementia.
  • Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars.

Unless something is done, in 2050, Alzheimer’s is projected to cost over $1.1 trillion (in 2015 dollars).

Sources:
NIH National Institute on Aging
Alzheimer’s Association


More Information:

Alzheimer’s Association Fact Sheet

Alzheimer’s Association Pennsylvania Statistics

NIH Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s Fact Sheet