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In 2012, when she was 13, Georgia Schafer suffered from a Spinal Infarction, a stroke in the spinal chord.

She has been involved in ATA, the American Taekwondo Association, for six years, and this year has qualified for World Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas in the special abilities category. This being said, she has the opportunity as a fifteen year old girl to become a world champion, and therefore the first with that ranking out of our academy.

Unfortunately, due to limited funding, Georgia and her family cannot afford to travel from Western Pennsylvania, where we live, to Little Rock where the tournament is held.

We are hoping with some help, we will be able to raise the money needed. We also plan to fundraise at various churches and business in our area, but any donation you make would go a long way.

Even if you cannot donate, reblogging to spread awareness would be greatly appreciated!

You can donate here! http://gofundme.com/utm8zy8

We’ve all heard that an aspirin a day can keep heart disease at bay. But lots of Americans seem to be taking it as a preventive measure, when many probably shouldn’t.

In a recent national survey, more than half the adults who were middle age or older reported taking an aspirin regularly to prevent a heart attack or stroke. The Food and Drug Administration only recommends the drug for people who’ve already experienced such an event, or who are at extremely high risk.

However, many of the people taking aspirin daily have never had a heart attack or stroke.

Maybe You Should Rethink That Daily Aspirin

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

Strokes steal 8 years’ worth of brain function, new study suggests

Having a stroke ages a person’s brain function by almost eight years, new research finds – robbing them of memory and thinking speed as measured on cognitive tests.

In both black and white patients, having had a stroke meant that their score on a 27-item test of memory and thinking speed had dropped as much as it would have if they had aged 7.9 years overnight.

For the study, data from more than 4,900 black and white seniors over the age of 65 was analyzed by a team from the University of Michigan U-M Medical School and School of Public Health and the VA Center for Clinical Management Research. The results will be published in the July issue of Stroke and are available online.

Researchers married two sources of information for their analysis: detailed surveys and tests of memory and thinking speed over multiple years from participants in a large, national study of older Americans, and Medicare data from the same individuals.

They zeroed in on the 7.5 percent of black study participants, and the 6.7 percent of white participants, who had no recent history of stroke, dementia or other cognitive issues, but who suffered a documented stroke within 12 years of their first survey and cognitive test in 1998.

By measuring participants’ changes in cognitive test scores over time from 1998 to 2012, the researchers could see that both blacks and whites did significantly worse on the test after their stroke than they had before.

Although the size of the effect was the same among blacks and whites, past research has shown that the rates of cognitive problems in older blacks are generally twice that of non-Hispanic whites. So the new results mean that stroke doesn’t account for the mysterious differences in memory and cognition that grow along racial lines as people age.

The researchers say the findings underscore the importance of stroke prevention.

“As we search for the key drivers of the known disparities in cognitive decline between blacks and whites, we focus here on the role of ‘health shocks’ such as stroke,” says lead author and U-M Medical School assistant professor Deborah Levine, M.D., MPH. “Although we found that stroke does not explain the difference, these results show the amount of cognitive aging that stroke brings on, and therefore the importance of stroke prevention to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.”

Other research on disparities in cognitive decline has focused on racial differences in socioeconomic status, education, and vascular risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking that can all contribute to stroke risk. These factors may explain some but not all of the racial differences in cognitive decline.

Levine and her colleagues note that certain factors – such as how many years a person has vascular risk factors, and the quality of his or her education, as well as genetic and biological factors – might play a role in racial differences in long-term cognitive performance.

But one thing is clear: strokes have serious consequences for brain function. On average, they rob the brain of eight years of cognitive health. Therefore, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds can benefit from taking steps to reduce their risk of a stroke. That includes controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, stopping or avoiding smoking, controlling blood sugar in diabetes, and being active even in older age.

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Make Health Last: What Will Your Last 10 Years Look Like? by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

A Game-Changer for Stroke Treatment

Stroke is the leading cause of severe long-term disability in the United States, and less than 40 percent of patients who experience the most severe form of stroke regain functional independence if they receive the standard drug intervention alone. Now a study by an international group of stroke physician-researchers has found that removal of the clot causing a severe stroke, in combination with the standard medication, improves the restoration of blood flow to the brain and may result in better long term outcomes.

The findings of the Swift Prime trial (Solitaire With the Intention For Thrombectomy as PRIMary Endovascular treatment) were reported April 17 in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine and are scheduled to be published in the journal’s June 11 print edition.

“These findings are a game-changer for how we should treat certain types of stroke,” says Demetrius Lopes, MD, surgical director of the comprehensive stroke center at Rush and a co-author of the study. “These outcomes are the difference between patients being able to care for themselves after stroke and being dependent.”

Rush was one of the 39 centers in the U.S. and Europe that participated in the Swift Prime trial.

Out, damned clot!

More than 795,000 people have a stroke each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 87 percent of these incidents are ischemic strokes, which result from clots in vessels supplying blood to the brain.

The standard treatment for ischemic stroke within the first three to four and a half hours of symptoms is intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA), a medication which dissolves the clot. However in the approximately 20 percent of cases in which one of the major arteries is blocked, resulting in a severe stroke, IV tPA alone may not be sufficient to dissolve the clot. If a patient experiencing a severe stroke is brought to a qualified hospital in time, doctors also may be able to perform a minimally invasive procedure called thrombectomy to remove the clot.

During thrombectomy, a neurovascular surgeon threads a catheter through an incision in the patient’s groin, snaking it through the blood vessels and into the brain. The doctor then uses a device attached to the catheter to grab and dislodge the clot and pull it all the way out through the incision, a bit like an angler reeling in a fish.

One more out of every four

The Swift Prime study randomly divided patients with severe ischemic strokes into two groups, one receiving IV tPA alone, and the other receiving combination therapy of IV tPA and thrombectomy within six hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. (IV tPA currently is the only treatment for ischemic stroke approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the use of thrombectomy is allowed in clinical trials.) In all, 196 patients — 98 in each group — at 39 centers in the U.S. and Canada participated in the study between December 2012 and November 2014.

The researchers assessed each patient’s level of disability after 90 days using a standardized measurement. The study found that the patients who received IV tPA plus thrombectomy exhibited reduced disability across the entire range of the measurement, with a functional independence rate of 60 percent compared to 35.5 percent for those patients who received only IV tPA.

“For every 2.6 patients treated, one additional patient had an improved disability outcome; for every four patients treated, one additional patient was independent at 90 day follow-up,” the New England Journal of Medicine article declares.

The study also found that patients who received thrombectomy had better cerebral blood flow rates: At 27 hours after treatment, 82.8 percent of those patients had blood flow that was 90 percent of normal or better, versus 40.4 percent of patients who only received IV tPA. The study’s findings depart from three previous trials that did not find thrombectomy provided greater benefits than IV tPA alone. “The Swift Prime trial used better technology, better imaging and quicker intervention, and we obtained a different result,” Lopes says.

In fact, Swift Prime was one of four recent worldwide studies that evaluated newer thombectomy devices and techniques. The result of the first study, reported in the New England Journal in December, found such strong evidence of the benefit of thrombectomy that the other trials were halted.

“Ethically, we can’t deny patients a treatment when we have such strong evidence it’s better for them,” Lopes says. At Rush and other study locations, thrombectomy now is a standard treatment within the first few hours for patients with severe strokes.

‘Time equals brain’

However, time remains crucial in stroke treatment. For every minute that a stroke is untreated, a patient loses 1.9 million brain cells and 14 billion connections between brain cells – a phenomenon underlying the stroke awareness adage “time equals brain.”

“The majority of the positive results of these trials were found in patients treated within four hours, six hours tops,” observes James Connors, MD, medical director of the Rush comprehensive stroke center.

Of all the participating sites in the Swift Prime trial, Rush was found to provide the fastest times from patient arrival to insertion of the catheter and from initiation of the procedure to restoration of blood flow, both of which are critically important to improving patient’s outcomes.

The Rush stroke team also was recognized for having the best workflow among a larger group of 203 sites in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia that participated in Swift Prime and two other affiliated stroke studies. Workflow refers to the coordination of the stroke team – including emergency medicine personnel, neurologists, neurosurgeons and neurointensive care specialists – to provide quick treatment.

Time for a change

Lopes and Conners believe the results of these studies demonstrate the need for a different approach to stroke care. Conners notes that nationwide, the average usage of IV tPA in U.S. stroke cases is only about five percent. “It’s far below where we need to be,” he says.

He believes that educating people to recognize signs of stroke and call 911, and taking steps to make sure they’re taken to the right facility, would improve usage to 50 percent. “We’re constantly working with the city’s Emergency Medical Services division and the emergency department at Rush to get the stroke recognized and treated as soon as possible,” Conners says.

Lopes points out that Rush currently is one of only a few hospitals in Chicago that can perform thrombectomy. “Many of the stroke patients who could benefit from it can’t be brought here in time,” he says. “We need to make the treatment standard.”

In addition, Lopes feels that paramedics need additional training and equipment that would enable them to screen stroke patients in the field and determine which ones would benefit from thrombectomy.

“Rush is doing great from getting our patients from the door of the hospital to fixing the problem,” he says. “We can do even better as a city if we can get patients who need thrombectomy even faster to the hospitals that can provide that care.”

Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution May Pose Risk to Brain Structure, Cognitive Functions

Air pollution, even at moderate levels, has long been recognized as a factor in raising the risk of stroke. A new study led by scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine suggests that long-term exposure can cause damage to brain structures and impair cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults.

Writing in the May 2015 issue of Stroke, researchers who studied more than 900 participants of the Framingham Heart Study found evidence of smaller brain structure and of covert brain infarcts, a type of “silent” ischemic stroke resulting from a blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain.

The study evaluated how far participants lived from major roadways and used satellite imagery to assess prolonged exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, particles with a diameter of 2.5 millionth of a meter, referred to as PM2.5.

These particles come from a variety of sources, including power plants, factories, trucks and automobiles and the burning of wood. They can travel deeply into the lungs and have been associated in other studies with increased numbers of hospital admissions for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

“This is one of the first studies to look at the relationship between ambient air pollution and brain structure,” says Elissa Wilker, ScD, a researcher in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Our findings suggest that air pollution is associated with insidious effects on structural brain aging, even in dementia- and stroke-free individuals.”

Study participants were at least 60 years old and were free of dementia and stroke. The evaluation included total cerebral brain volume, a marker of age-associated brain atrophy; hippocampal volume, which reflect changes in the area of the brain that controls memory; white matter hyperintensity volume, which can be used as a measure of pathology and aging; and covert brain infarcts.

The study found that an increase of only 2µg per cubic meter in PM2.5, a range commonly observed across metropolitan regions in New England and New York, was associated with being more likely to have covert brain infarcts and smaller cerebral brain volume, equivalent to approximately one year of brain aging.

“These results are an important step in helping us learn what is going on in the brain,” Wilker says. “The mechanisms through which air pollution may affect brain aging remain unclear, but systemic inflammation resulting from the deposit of fine particles in the lungs is likely important.”

“This study shows that for a 2 microgram per cubic meter of air (μg/m3) increase in PM2.5, a range commonly observed across major US cities, on average participants who lived in more polluted areas had the brain volume of someone a year older than participants who lived in less polluted areas. They also had a 46 percent higher risk of silent strokes on MRI,” said Sudha Seshadri, MD, a Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and Senior Investigator, the Framingham Study.

“This is concerning since we know that silent strokes increase the risk of overt strokes and of developing dementia, walking problems and depression. We now plan to look at more the impact of air pollution over a longer period, its effect on more sensitive MRI measures, on brain shrinkage over time, and other risks including of stroke and dementia.”