DON'T IGNORE "MILD" STROKES
Many people at risk for heart attack are also at higher risk for stroke, since the underlying disease process--atherosclerosis--can block blood flow to the brain, just as it does in the heart. Although many people know that chest pain is a sign of insufficient blood flow to the heart, they may not recognize the symptoms of inadequate blood flow to the brain. As a result, they can have a mild stroke and not know it.
strokes, the resulting damage may be harmful and irreversible. That's why stroke experts encourage anyone who experiences the symptoms of stroke--no matter how mild the symptoms seem--to call 911 immediately. These include:
-- sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
-- sudden onset of weakness, numbness, or tingling on one side of the body
-- sudden drooping of one side of the face
-- sudden difficulty with speech or balance
-- sudden confusion
"It's best to call 911, because the sooner you are treated, the greater your chance of recovery," says Dr. Natalia Rost, a stroke neurologist and associate director of Acute Stroke Services at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "If you wait to see whether the symptoms will pass before seeking help, you risk suffering irreversible brain damage. Once brain cells are lost, they cannot be revived."
People admitted to the emergency department with symptoms of mild stroke may be given a clot-busting drug called tPA. The drug can prevent permanent damage, but only when given within three to four-and-a-half hours after the stroke occurs. - Harvard Heart Letter
OTHER COLON CANCER TESTS MAY BE GOOD ALTERNATIVES TO REPEAT COLONOSCOPY
There's more than one effective way to screen for colon cancer, according to researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. After a negative colonoscopy at age 50, getting rescreened annually with a less invasive fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test, or having a computed tomographic colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years is about as accurate as having another colonoscopy every 10 years, but is less expensive and less likely to cause complications.
Screening by any method significantly reduces the risk of colon cancer compared with not screening, found the Annals of Internal Medicine study, which used a simulation model to identify differences in colon cancer detection among the various testing methods.
Colonoscopy every 10 years leads to the fewest colorectal cancer cases and deaths, but it also has the highest complication rate and is the costliest testing method. Although an accompanying editorial cautions that the simulation models used in this study can be "imprecise," the findings reinforce the idea that any colon cancer test is better than no test.
Current guidelines recommend that women ages 50 to 75 get a colonoscopy every 10 years; a flexible sigmoidoscopy, double-contrast barium enema, or CT colonography every five years; or a fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test every year. Talk with your doctor about which testing method is most appropriate for you. - Harvard Women's Health Watch
REGULAR EXERCISE REDUCES THE RISK OF MENTAL DECLINE
Physically active older adults are less likely to decline mentally, even if they already have brain changes that could put them at higher risk, according to a study in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association .
The study involved 638 people ages 65 to 84. As shown by MRI scans, the participants already had developed changes to the underlying circuitry of the brain. Such "white matter changes" can be a warning sign of future mental decline. The study participants were all still living independently.
Over three years, people in the group who exercised for at least 30 minutes on three days per week were less likely than sedentary people to develop mental impairment of any kind. The impairments on the list included Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia from impaired blood flow to the brain.
How does regular exercise help brain health? Leading theories include healthier arteries, increased blood to the brain, and the mental and social stimulation of group fitness activities. - Harvard Men's Health Watch
ASPIRIN MAY PREVENT BLOOD CLOTS IN THE LEGS FROM RECURRING
People who develop blood clots in their legs--a condition called venous thromboembolism--must take warfarin (Coumadin) for several months or longer to prevent another clot from forming and possibly traveling to the lungs, with deadly results. Yet warfarin can cause unwanted bleeding and requires regular blood testing. As a result, no one wants to be on this treatment forever. The question is, what else might they do to reduce their risk for another blood clot if they stop taking warfarin?
Now the combined results of two compatible studies have determined that a low dose of aspirin (100 mg per day) may be an effective substitute for long-term use of warfarin. Both studies examined people who had developed a clot in the legs for unknown reasons.
In both studies, the clots were dissolved with heparin, and treatment with warfarin followed for up to three months. Then warfarin was discontinued, and the study participants were given either daily low-dose aspirin or placebo (sugar pill). Compared with placebo, aspirin reduced the rate of recurrent clots by one-third, and helped prevent strokes, heart attacks, and other undesirable consequences, with a very low risk of bleeding.
The researchers concluded that low-dose aspirin would be a reasonable option for long-term clot prevention in people who suffer a first clot for unknown reasons. - Harvard Heart Letter