May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Most strokes can be prevented

Can you spot the warning signs of a stroke? Learn them and you could save a life — maybe even your own!

Why is stroke prevention and recognition important? Because it’s the 5th-leading cause of death in the U.S., occurring in 800,000 individuals annually. It is also the leading cause of long-term adult disability, with half of all global stroke survivors being permanently disabled, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Women carry a 7% higher risk, mainly because they live longer and overall risk doubles every decade past the age of 65. Additionally, some form of reduced mobility occurs in half of all patients over age 65 who experience a stroke.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes occur in the brain, when a blood clot blocks an artery (ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel breaks (hemorrhagic stroke), both of which interrupt blood flow. As that part of the brain loses circulation, the lack of oxygen from the blood causes the brain cells surrounding the affected area to die. The severity and impact depends on which part of the brain it occurs in, and can include physical/mobility problems, loss of speech and/or memory, and emotional changes. And the costs are high – even beyond the lost quality of life, $33 billion is spent annually for treatment in our country, according to the American Heart association.

Take Steps to Prevent

But the most startling statistic is how many strokes are preventable – 80 percent. Many risk factors can be reduced or minimized with simple, common-sense lifestyle choices. To reduce your chances, as well as improve your overall health, Oxford recommends several basic steps;

  • Choose a Nutritious Diet
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Make time for Physical Activity
  • Quit Smoking Now
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption

Strokes are classified as a result of heart disease, so patients should also address any other coexisting conditions to further reduce their risk. These include regular cholesterol checks, controlling blood pressure, managing diabetes, treating other heart diseases, taking all prescribed medications and working with your doctor and health care team.

Recognize the Signs

How do you know if you’re having a stroke? Symptoms can be anything from a sudden, severe headache in a specific area, to a loss of vision or balance. The American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association have developed a list of four warning signs to determine a person is potentially having a stroke.

  • FACEFAST - Stroke warning signs
    An eye, mouth or cheek appears to sag on only one side of the face
  • ARM
    Weakness on one side of the body that has no other apparent cause
  • SPEECH
    Speech suddenly becomes jumbled, slurry, or slow
  • TIME
    If a person has one or more symptoms, act quickly and call 911 to get emergency medical help.

Make sure to note what time the symptoms began, since early treatment is critical to minimizing long-term damage and impairment. Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first stroke symptoms have less disability 90 days afterward than someone who receives delayed care, according to the CDC.

Even More Resources

There is still life to be lived after a stroke, even if you have experienced permanent damage. Physical, occupational and speech therapy can help you regain the maximum possible mobility and minimize the negative impacts. Additionally, a qualified home care team like Oxford HealthCare can help stroke patients maintain their independence during and after treatment. For additional resources on maximizing your recovery from a stroke, visit the American Stroke Association online.

February is American Heart Month!

by Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects

Heart disease prevention is important year-round.

Knowing the causes, symptoms and preventions of Heart Disease is important year-round.

February brings Valentine’s Day and heart-shaped boxes of candy, but it’s also American Heart Month. First declared by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, it was designed to bring awareness to the symptoms, causes and preventions of Heart Disease, which at that time was responsible for more than half of all deaths in this country.

Awareness and prevention have greatly increased in the half-century since the first Heart Month. As a result, heart disease has steadily declined since 1968, with fewer than 400,000 actual deaths in 2010, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The institute estimates that if 20th-century heart disease trends had continued unchecked, it would have been the cause of nearly five times as many deaths – more than 1.8 million – in 2010.

However, heart disease is still the current leading cause of death in both women and men in this country, responsible for one in four deaths in the United States. Though a heart attack is the most-often associated health risk, other serious types of heart disease include coronary artery disease (the most common), heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), cardiomyopathy (diseased heart muscle), atrial fibrillation (a type of arrhythmia), and congenital heart defects.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are numerous hereditary and environmental factors that determine an individual’s risk for heart disease. They include;

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Age/Family History/Race or ethnicity
  • Lifestyle choices such as:

->  Unhealthy Diet
->  Physical Inactivity
->  Obesity
->  Too Much Alcohol
->  Tobacco Use

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and returns. It may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This can often accompany chest discomfort, but can also occur before any other signs are noticeable.
  • Other symptoms. This includes breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.

Preventing Heart Disease

While the effects of heart disease are serious, the good news is there are many common-sense steps that you can take to limit your risk factors, according to the CDC. Some of them include;

1.     Live a healthy lifestyle – Healthy behaviors can lower your risk for heart disease, which include;

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get enough physical activity
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Don’t smoke or use other forms of tobacco

2.     Check your cholesterol – Your health care provider should check your cholesterol at least once every five years. If you have already been diagnosed or have a family history of heart disease, your cholesterol should be checked more frequently. If you have high cholesterol, lifestyle changes or prescribed medication may help reduce your risk of heart disease.

3.     Control your blood pressure – High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, and is important to have yours checked on a regular basis.  If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your health care provider might recommend that you lower the sodium in your diet, prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure, and make some lifestyle changes.

4.     Manage diabetes – If your health care provider identifies symptoms of diabetes, they may recommend that you get tested. If diagnosed, it’s important for you to monitor and control your blood sugar levels. Lifestyle changes can help keep your blood sugar under control, and reduce your risk for heart disease or other diabetic complications.

5.     Take your medicine – If you take medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions. NEVER stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

6.     Talk with your healthcare provider – Work with your medical team to prevent or treat medical conditions that can potentially lead to heart disease.

How We Can Help

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with heart disease, Oxford Healthcare has numerous Home Care programs that can help. Contact us to find out about our cardiovascular, telemonitoring, and specialty services designed to help more people with heart disease stay healthy, and stay home.


About the Author
Pam Gennings has a Bachelor of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes, as well as providing guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

Hypertension: High Blood Pressure

Checking BP for signs of hypertension

By Crystal Maggard, RN Oxford Cardiopulmonary Coordinator

Have you checked your blood pressure lately??

Did you know that long-term elevated blood pressure is called “the silent killer?”

High blood pressure is a common condition in many people, many of whom often are not even aware they have it. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance in your arteries—the more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms or any problems. However, damage to blood vessels and your heart can develop and cause life threatening problems.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected and controlled with the help of your physician. The first step is simply becoming aware of your elevated blood pressure.

Symptoms

Even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels, most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, thus, the name “the silent killer.”

Some people may have:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds

However, these symptoms aren’t specific, and they usually don’t occur until high BP has reached a life-threatening level.

Causes

There are two types of high blood pressure.

Primary (Essential) Hypertension

For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high BP. This type of high BP, called primary (essential) hypertension, tends to develop gradually over many years.

Secondary Hypertension

Some people have high BP caused by an underlying condition. This type of BP, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher BP than primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Certain defects in blood vessels you’re born with (congenital)
  • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
  • Alcohol abuse or chronic alcohol use

Risk Factors

High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

  • Through early middle age, or about age 45, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
  • High blood pressure is particularly common among African Americans, often developing at an earlier age than others.
  • Family history
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • Using tobacco
  • Too much salt (sodium) in your diet
  • Too little potassium in your diet
  • Too little vitamin D in your diet
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress
  • Certain chronic conditions. Kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea, among others, can be a risk factor.

Complications

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart failure
  • Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys
  • Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Trouble with memory or comprehension

What You Can Do

Talk with your doctor.

You should have your physician obtain a BP reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you’re 40 or older—or you’re age 18-39 with a high risk of high blood pressure—ask for a yearly BP reading with an appropriate-sized arm cuff. Your doctor will likely recommend more frequent readings if you’ve already been diagnosed with high BP or have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Children age 3 and older will usually have BP checked as a part of their yearly exam.

Blood pressure measurements fall into four general categories:

  • Normal blood pressure – Below 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Prehypertension – Systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg. Prehypertension tends to get worse over time.
  • Stage 1 hypertension – Systolic pressure ranging from 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension – Systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.

If you fall into the pre-hypertension or hypertension categories, it is important to talk to your physician about getting your BP under control.

MAY IS NATIONAL STROKE AWARENESS MONTH

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke. A stroke occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) it is the fourth leading cause of death. A stroke can strike people of all ages, in fact the CDC reports that nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than 65.
Strokes are largely PREVENTABLE.
• According to the American Stroke Association, one in three Americans has high blood pressure, which is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke. It is important to keep your blood pressure under control.
• Cigarette smoking contributes to one in every five strokes in the country. Exposure to second hand smoke can also contribute to a higher stroke risk.
• Exercise regularly. To help lower or control blood pressure, get 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to four times a week.
• Prevent or control diabetes.
• Get your cholesterol checked regularly and manage it with diet/physical activity or medication if needed.
• Eat a healthy diet. Watch your sodium intake.
• Limit your alcohol intake.
• Ask your doctor if taking aspirin is right for you.
Strokes are TREATABLE, but every second counts. The sooner a patient receives medical treatment, the lower the risk of death or disability.

As an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke, the American Stroke Association wants everyone to learn F.A.S.T. When you spot the signs you will know to call 9-1-1 immediately.

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 downwards?
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 will know when the first symptoms appeared.

Beyond F.A.S.T., other warning signs include:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg.
• Sudden confusion
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden severe headaches with no known cause

Remember getting immediate medical attention for stroke is crucial to prevent disability and death.
For more information go to www.strokeassociation.org

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

Your Heart Needs TLC Year-Round

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

February is a time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, love and American Heart Month. However, focusing on your heart and providing it some TLC is something to do year-round.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure—is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. CVD is a leading cause of disability and heart disease is a major threat to senior health. The American Heart Association reports that approximately 83.6 million adults have at least one type of CVD. For those 60-79 years old, 70.2% of men and 70.9% of women have CVD.

While one in four deaths is due to heart disease, many CVD deaths could have been prevented through healthier habits and managing risk factors like:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Steps toward a healthy heart are a journey that requires lifestyle changes, determination and patience. Things that can help include:

  • Staying encouraged – every healthy choice makes a difference.
  • Asking for help—get friends and family involved; heart health is for everyone.
  • Rewarding yourself—decrease stress by discovering fun and new things to do.

Little changes add up; as Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Steps to Heart Disease Prevention

  • Get a regular check up from a health care professional. Know your numbers!
    High blood pressure often has no symptoms; so check it on a regular basis.
  • Know your family history—if heart disease runs in your family, be proactive about heart health.
  • Take your medicine.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; nuts like walnuts and almonds; and, limit saturated fats and foods containing cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly— Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • QUIT smoking.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Minimize stress in your life.

Find more Heart Health information at: http://www.everydayhealth.com/conditions/heart-health OR http://www.heart.org

 

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.