Saturday, April 29, 2006

It's Mom's fault?

A patient's history of maternal coronary heart disease is a more significant risk factor than a paternal history, investigators reported here. But the risk escalates even more when both parents had the disease.

Compared with male patients with no family history of heart disease, men had a 55% greater risk of developing heart disease if they had a maternal history of coronary heart disease . Their risk was 41% greater if they had a paternal coronary heart disease history.

If both parents had heart disease, the risk for men more than doubled. For younger men, ages 30 to 39, the risk was up 500%.

Maternal transmission was also stronger in women, compared with reference women whose parents were not affected. Women had a 43% increased risk for maternal transmission, compared with a 17% increased risk for paternal transmission.

If both parents had coronary heart disease, the risks for women rose to 82%. Furthermore, like the men, the highest risk—up more than 450%—was found in the youngest age group, women 30 to 39.

The differences in percentages between men and women were not fully explained in the study. The transmission of coronary heart disease could be mediated through diabetes and hypertension but also through other genetic, biochemical, or behavioral factors.

However, study authors hypothesized that the increased maternal transmission may have been attributable to behavioral risk factors and to the fact that children spend more time with their mothers. As a result, children might be likely to pick up a mother's risky habits such as poor diet, smoking, and physical inactivity.

Now, that we're adults, and we have gotten over blaming our parents for all our thoughts and actions, isn't it time to get off the couch, get into the gym and the healthy kitchen, and take on Mom's genes?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Small changes 'add years to life'

Making small changes to your lifestyle can have a significant impact on how long you will live, research has shown.

The Cambridge University study looked at over 25,000 people.

It found that stopping smoking, exercising more and eating better could give you the life expectancy of a person 11 to 12 years younger.

  • Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can give you the life expectancy of someone three years younger.
  • Not smoking turned the clock back by four to five years.
  • Increasing exercise by a moderate amount can take up to three years off. (An office worker would need to do one hour of exercise, such as swimming or jogging, every day, while a person with a moderately active job, such as a hairdresser, would need to take 30 minutes exercise a day. People with active jobs, including nurses and bricklayers, do not need to do any extra exercise - as their work is strenuous enough.)

Find out more about the small change, big difference campaign.

Need to add fruits and vegetables to your diet? Need to know what an added portion equals? You'll find that information here and here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

More benefits from the Mediterranean diet

A Mediterranean-style diet that appears to cut the risk of heart disease also may help protect against Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

People who followed the diet were up to 40 percent less likely than those who largely avoided it to develop Alzheimer's during the course of the research, scientists reported.

The diet tested includes eating lots of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and fish, while limiting intake of meat and dairy products, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and emphasizing monounsaturated fats, such as in olive oil, over saturated fats. Previous research has suggested that such an approach can reduce the risk of heart disease.

The idea that a heart-healthy diet could also help fight Alzheimer's fits in with growing evidence that "the kinds of things we associate with being bad for our heart turn out to be bad for our brain."

Researchers followed 2,258 elderly residents of northern Manhattan for an average of four years. The participants were asked in detail about their dietary habits and evaluated every 18 months or so for signs of dementia. None showed any dementia at the start of the study, but by the end, 262 had developed Alzheimer's.

To look for an effect of diet, the researchers gave each participant a score of 0 to 9 to nine on a scale that measured how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet. Compared to those showing the lowest adherence, those who scored 4 or 5 showed 15 percent to 25 percent less risk of developing Alzheimer's during the study, while those with higher scores had about 40 percent less risk.

The Mediterranean diet.

See a video on the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet. Scroll down to the November 28, 2005 entry.

Guess what else is good for the brain?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Microvascular disease in women - a real danger often overlooked

Puzzling differences have emerged between men and women with heart disease, making it plain that past studies, mostly on men, do not always apply to women. Researchers have come to realize that to improve diagnosis and treatment for women, they must sort out the differences.

"Every time we turn around, we find more gender differences, so it's important to study," said Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Among the differences:
  • Women with chest pain and other heart symptoms are more likely than men to have clear coronary arteries when tests are performed, a surprising result that suggests there may be another cause for their problems.
  • When women do have blocked coronary arteries, they tend to be older than men with similar blockages and to have worse symptoms, including more chest pain and disability. And they are more likely than men to develop heart failure (most likely due to age of onset), a weakening of the heart muscle that can be debilitating and ultimately fatal.
  • When women have bypass surgery or balloon procedures for coronary blockages, they are less likely than men to have successful outcomes, and they are more likely to suffer from bad side effects.
  • Blood tests that pick up signs of heart damage in men do not always work in women.

For symptomatic women without clear atherosclerosis, the underlying problem may be a disorder called microvascular disease, a narrowing or stiffening of the smaller arteries that nourish the heart, vessels too tiny to show up on an angiogram. In microvascular disease, the small vessels lose their ability to dilate and increase blood flow to the heart. The cause does not seem to be fatty deposits such as the ones that can block the coronary arteries. Rather, the muscles in the arterioles thicken, and the walls may stiffen and begin to close in. The result is ischemia, lack of blood flow. Over time, it increases the risk of heart failure and heart attacks.

Three million women in the United States may have microvascular heart disease. Research, begun in 1996, included 936 women who had angiograms because of symptoms such as chest pain. The angiograms found that only a third had blockages in their coronary arteries. In men with similar symptoms, three-quarters or more would have had severe blockages.

Another third of the women had no blockages but did have low blood flow to the heart, most likely a result of microvascular disease. Among those with the disorder, the rate of deaths or heart attacks was 10 percent after four years, much higher than would be expected for women with normal angiograms.

The findings call for a major shift in the treatment of women with chest pain or other symptoms and normal angiograms, said Dr. George Sopko of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "Instead of tossing aside the angiogram and saying you're OK, let's make sure we are not missing anything."

High cholesterol and blood pressure are almost certainly among the causes of microvascular disease, and it is essential to treat them aggressively in women with chest pain and to urge women to exercise, avoid smoking and lose weight.

Read more on the WISE study and microvascular disease

Monday, April 17, 2006

Heart device reimbursement cuts

Proposed cuts in government reimbursement for expensive but potentially lifesaving heart devices including defibrillators and stents have created a new financial challenge for the fast-growing industry.

The cuts, which device makers are opposing, could reduce by as much as a third the rate that Medicare pays hospitals for heart implants that aren't covered by private insurance.

The reimbursement cuts for stents, defibrillators and pacemakers will further complicate price negotiations between hospitals and the makers of the increasingly expensive devices. Piper Jaffray analyst Thom Gunderson said hospitals will be more inclined to use older and less expensive devices for some surgeries than they might otherwise use.

If the proposed cuts stand without modification, Medicare reimbursement for the most common type of stent procedure would be reduced by nearly 24 percent, according to an analysis by Gunderson. The cut would be 34 percent for a less-common procedure involving stents, metal-mesh devices used to prop open coronary arteries.

Reimbursement for defibrillators — which detect and electrically correct dangerous irregularities in heart rhythm, and can cost more than $40,000 to implant — would drop by 24 percent. Coverage for pacemakers — which use a mild electrical current to speed a slow heartbeat — would drop 13 percent.

Merrill Lynch analyst Katherine Martinelli said she had expected cuts in reimbursement rates for cardiovascular devices given CMS' concerns about the growing costs to treat these patients. However, the cuts were greater than some had anticipated, she said.

By contrast, the plan proposes only moderate changes to reimbursements for orthopedic devices such as hip and knee replacements, the analysts added.

Hopefully, they'll get a boost in the bottom line when they develop new heart devices, thus allowing them to charge more. Then again, with current cuts in the bottom line, maybe they'll have less to throw into research.

Who's going to pay?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

How obesity may increase heart risk

Fat cells around coronary arteries may play a key role in heart disease, research suggests.

University of Iowa researchers found the cells release chemicals which can trigger inflammation.

Under certain circumstances, they might also stimulate potentially damaging growth of new blood vessels.

The findings may help explain why obesity increases heart disease risk.

The researchers suspected that the chemicals pumped out by the fat cells surrounding the coronary arteries might play a role in triggering heart disease by contributing to the deterioration of these vessels.

They isolated and cultured these cells, known as epicardial adipocytes, and compared them with cells taken from other fat tissue.

Tests showed that the epicardial adipocytes were prone to release greater amounts of potentially harmful, inflammation-producing cytokines in response to certain stimuli.
Unlike fat cells from other tissue, they also stimulated the cells lining the arteries to begin the process of forming new vessels.

And when oxygen was in short supply, this process was stepped up.

The fat tissue surrounding the coronary arteries gets its blood supply directly from the vessel.
The Iowa team believe their work suggests that when this blood supply is reduced, possibly by a blockage in the blood vessel, the fat cells respond by releasing cytokines, which trigger inflammation and make the problem worse.

At the same time, the fat cells may also trigger excessive formation of new blood vessels which could raise the risk of cardiovascular disease by raising the risk of fatty deposits hemorrhaging and causing a dangerous blockage.

Lead researcher Dr Lynn Stoll said: "The fat cells surrounding coronary arteries may ultimately prove to be an important link between obesity, type two diabetes, and coronary artery disease, all of which are increasing at epidemic rates.

Another new study indicates that older adults who carry their fat around the middle may be at risk of chronic heart failure, even in the absence of other serious health conditions.

Abdominal fat may contribute to heart failure in several ways, including through increased pressure within the abdominal cavity. Abdominal obesity may also lead to an enlargement of the heart's main pumping chamber, or to stiffness in the aorta, the major artery supplying blood to the rest of the body.

In contrast, the researchers found, body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, was not a good predictor of heart failure once waist circumference was taken into account.

Coupled with past studies, the researchers conclude, the findings suggest that excess fat -- particularly in the abdomen -- should be added to the list of risk factors for heart failure.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Diabetes, A1C control....and your gums

In a strongly worded review published in theThe Journal of the American Medical Association the head of the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center urges physicians and patients to better use the blood-testing tools at hand to manage the disease and prevent most of its dire impact on the heart, kidneys, nerves and vision.

"The message is, we have tools that are very accurate, but they don't work at all if they are not used properly," says Christopher Saudek, MD, a former president of the American Diabetes Association and lead author of the article. "If the goal of treatment is to prevent morbidity and mortality, we need to do a better job of monitoring our patients, as well as advising them."

Researchers reviewed data from studies conducted between 1976 and 2005 and concluded that both self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) and more precise physician testing of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) can help diabetics take proper control of their blood sugar levels and successfully manage their disease.

"Assessing glycemia in diabetes can be a challenge, but approaches are available that promote successful management of blood glucose and may lead to a significant reduction in incidence and in medical treatment of diabetes."

And, more interesting news for diabetics:

Results of a new study support the hypothesis that periodontal therapy may improve metabolic control (lower HbA1c) in diabetic patients.

The results suggest that periodontal therapy may reduce a diabetic patient's HbA1c count by as much as 20% at three and six months following treatment. "We found that conventional treatment for chronic moderate generalized periodontitis, which included a simple, non-surgical procedure called Scaling and Root Planing (SRP) lowered the study group's HbA1c count from 7.2 to 5.7," said the study authors.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cholesterol gone haywire

New research provides the first explanation of an active rather than passive process that leads to heart valve degeneration. Heart valve disease is caused not by a ‘wear and tear' phenomenon, but by an inflammatory process likely triggered by high cholesterol that stimulates certain cells to reprogram into bone cells in the aortic valve and cartilage cells in the mitral valve, according to researcher Nalini Rajamannan, MD of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and assistant professor of medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who examined diseased mitral and aortic valves removed during surgery for the study.

“Common wisdom in the medical community has always been that thickening of the mitral valves was part of the aging process as deposits of calcium, a mineral found in the blood, built up on the valves. Our findings open the door to the idea that medical therapies such as statins may be able to play a role in preventing or slowing the process and curtailing the need for surgery.”

In an earlier pioneering study, animals treated with statins had significantly less heart valve disease than the control animals that were not treated. The results from the animal studies and now with the human valves demonstrate that valvular heart disease has an active biology which can be treated with medications similar to that of coronary artery disease.

More incredible research. This actually is not new. An earlier study found that narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve is less than half as likely to worsen in patients taking statin drugs. Resaerchers concluded that "it is possible statins offer a triple benefit with regard to aortic stenosis by reducing cholesterol, inflammation and calcium deposition."

More on heart valve surgery, a procedure performed 100,000 times per year in the U.S.

Monday, April 10, 2006

ACE Inhibitors May Reduce Death, Heart Attack in Coronary Artery Patients

Angiotension-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, medications commonly used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), may reduce cardiovascular risk and the risk of death in patients with coronary artery disease, according to a new analysis of previously conducted clinical trials.

Studies on the use of ACE inhibitors in patients with coronary artery disease but without heart failure or left ventricle dysfunction have had conflicting results.

Researchers analyzed seven previous randomized and controlled trials of ACE inhibitors in patients with coronary artery disease. The studies tested five different ACE inhibitors and included a total of 33,960 patients, who were followed for a minimum of two years and an average of 4.4 years. In each trial, some patients were randomly selected to receive ACE inhibitors and others to receive placebos.

A list of commonly used ACE inhibitors.
You will probably get similar results with the ARBs.

When the results of all the trials were analyzed together, treatment with ACE inhibitors significantly reduced the risk of death from any cause, cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke. The researchers also found that in studies that measured additional outcomes, ACE inhibitors appeared to reduce the risk of onset of diabetes, hospitalization for congestive heart failure and cardiac arrest.

The authors suggest that "ACE inhibitor therapy should be systematically used in all patients with documented coronary artery disease.”

How about adding them to the water supply along with the statins?

The exact way that these medicines work is not known. They block an enzyme in the body that is necessary to produce a substance that causes blood vessels to tighten. As a result, they relax blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure and increases the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart.

Why the bluebird pic? As it's now bluebird season, the postings may be more a bit more sporadic. Maybe I'll see you outside!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lifestyle change and blood pressure

Men and women with elevated blood pressure who make healthy lifestyle changes and sustain them for up to a year and a half can substantially reduce their rates of high blood pressure and potentially decrease their heart disease risk. With behavioral counseling, increases in physical activity, and adoption of a healthy eating plan called DASH, rates of high blood pressure dropped from 37 to 22 percent among participants in a study conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

A total of 810 men and women ages 25 and older with either prehypertension (120-139mmHg/80-89mmHg) or stage 1 hypertension (140-159mmHg/90-95mmHg) but who were not taking medications to control blood pressure were randomly assigned to three groups.

  • Participants in two of the groups attended 18 counseling sessions during the first six months. They were prescribed goals for weight loss, physical activity, and given sodium and alcohol intake limits. One of these groups also received guidance on implementing the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet (DASH), an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and low in saturated, total fat and dietary cholesterol.
  • A third group served as a control, receiving only two 30-minute sessions of advice to follow standard recommendations for blood pressure control. A third session was offered at the end of the 18-month trial after measurements were completed.

The numbers of participants with high blood pressure declined in all three groups, but the reduction was greater in the intervention groups and most striking in the intervention group that included the DASH eating plan. While approximately 37 percent of participants in all three groups had high blood pressure at the study's start, this was reduced to 22 percent in the group following DASH and 24 percent in the intervention group without DASH. By comparison, the rate of hypertension fell only to 32 percent in the control group.

(The researchers say the study was limited in that it applied only to patients with borderline or mild hypertension who were not taking drugs to control their blood pressure.)

"These rates of hypertension control produced by the two interventions are even better than the 50 percent control rates typically found when single drug therapy is used to control high blood pressure."

DASH diet details

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Memory and vascular disease - the blood pressure link

Long-term treatment of high blood pressure may help keep the mind sharp in old age, a new study finds.

"For every year of hypertension treatment, there is increased protection against dementia," study lead author Rita Peila, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, said in a prepared statement.

"Hypertension treatment in the very old -- those aged 80 and older -- protects against stroke, heart disease and heart failure, and now we see that there is no harm -- and perhaps a benefit -- on cognitive function," Peila said.

After their initial evaluation at age 77, the men were checked again three and six years later.

Overall, each year of treatment for high blood pressure reduced the risk of developing dementia during the follow-up period by about three percent. Compared to the men who had never been treated for their high blood pressure, the risk of dementia among the men who were treated was:

  • 6 percent lower in those treated less than five years,
  • 48 percent lower in those treated from five to 12 years,
  • 60 percent lower in those treated more than 12 years -- a risk similar to that of men with normal blood pressure.

"We found protection against both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. There is more and more recognition that there is a vascular component to Alzheimer's disease."

And, more news on dementia:

New research suggests that removal of the ovaries significantly increases a woman's risk for cognitive problems later in life.

The lead author of a study released this week said the findings shouldn't prevent women from having their ovaries removed when they are diseased. However, Dr. Walter Rocca, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Mayo Clinic, did advise that women be cautious, especially when they undergo the procedure to prevent a disease that hasn't appeared yet.

He added that, because estrogen might be at the root of the problem, estrogen-replacement therapy might help women who do undergo ovary removal avoid cognitive problems.

Keep your blood pressure in check, consider the effects of ovary removal, and of course, exercise to cut dementia risk.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Carbohydrates and your cholesterol

The effect of dietary carbohydrate on blood lipids has received considerable attention in light of the recent trend in lowering carbohydrate intake for weight loss.

The association between carbohydrate intake and serum lipids was evaluated in 574 healthy adults in Central Massachusetts from 1994-1998.

Results suggest that there is a complex and predominantly unfavorable effect from increased intake of highly processed carbohydrate on lipid profile, i.e. more carbohydrates resulted in lower HDL levels and higher triglyceride levels.

And, how important (again) is HDL? In a large study of Japanese men (a group not known for a high incidence of myocardial infarction), the most important predictor was low HDL-cholesterol. It was suggested that low HDL plays a pivotal role in a population whose total cholesterol level is not high to begin with.

So, let's watch the carbs, especially the refined carbs, and follow a Mediterranean plan for balance.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Battle of the Bulge Wages On

More American children, adolescents, and men have swelled the ranks of the overweight or obese since 1999, while the the decades-long trend of increasing obesity may be leveling off among women, according to new federal statistics.

The study found the percentage of men who are overweight rose to 71 percent in 2003-2004, from 67 percent in 1999-2000. The obese percentage rose to 31 percent, from 27.5 percent.
For women, both the overweight and obese percentages held steady, at about 62 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

U.S. lifestyle factors that have contributed to the obesity epidemic include increases in daily calorie consumption, more eating out and larger portion sizes in restaurants, consumption of more sugary beverages (specially among children), increased time spent in front of computers and televisions, and lack of physical activity.

One factor that may hinder the fight against obesity is doctors’ reluctance to inform children or their parents that a child is overweight. In a study last year, only about half (52%) of overweight teens were informed of their overweight status by a doctor.

Is a discussion of weight out of bounds when talking to a patient? Shouldn't it be one of the first things discussed? Why aren't our healthcare providers providing health care?

"Early recognition and discussion of overweight status is a necessary first step to developing healthier lifelong behaviors. Addressing overweight among children and teens requires recognition by health-care providers, discussion of potential consequences with families, acknowledgment of those consequences by families of affected children, and a commitment to work together toward attaining a healthier lifestyle."

Could this be one reason why we aren't taking strides to reduce obesity? (Obese people are accurate in assessing their height and weight, but only 15 percent think of themselves as obese.)

More news: Hundreds of thousands of obese U.S. children cannot fit into car seats, leaving them at risk in the event of a crash, researchers said.

Another study: Many parents do not identify their child as "overweight." Only about one third of parents correctly identified their child as overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. Researchers recommended that parents "play actively" with their children and "decrease the availability of opportunities for sedentary behavior."

Looks like we have a lot of work to do. And, by work, let's start with 30 minutes per day, every day, of physical activity.

Short sleep duration linked to high blood pressure

Short sleep durations over a prolonged period appears to be an important and potentially modifiable risk factor for hypertension, according to a new study.

Among the subjects between 32 and 59 years of age, sleeping less than 6 hours per night raised the risk of hypertension by 2.10-fold, the report indicates. Moreover, this association remained significant after adjusting for obesity and diabetes, which were both hypothesized to be partial mediators of the relationship. the relationship was not observed among people age 60 or older. The differences between the younger and older subjects might be explained by the fact that advanced age is associated with difficulties in falling and staying asleep.

James E. Gangwisch, PhD lead researcher, says, "Sleep allows the heart to slow down and blood pressure to drop for a significant part of the day."

He continues, "However, people who sleep for only short durations raise their average 24-hour blood pressure and heart rate. This may set up the cardiovascular system to operate at an elevated pressure."

We've already seen how a lack of sleep can result in weight gain.

Chronic sleeping problems afflict as many as 70 million Americans, costing the nation billions in medical expenses, accidents and lost productivity, a new study reports.

So, how about getting a good night's sleep? See a recent short video on Getting a Good Night's Rest. (Scroll to the March 27th entry.) Or, check out some healthy sleep TIPS.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Noise linked to heart attacks

Living or working in noisy surroundings may raise a person's risk of heart attack, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Germany found that urban middle-aged adults who lived near high-traffic roads were 46 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those who lived in more peaceful neighbourhoods.

Similarly, men whose jobs exposed them to high noise levels were one-third more likely to have a heart attack than their peers in quieter workplaces.

To the body, loud noise acts as a "warning," and the normal stress response involves hormonal changes and a spike in blood pressure and heart rate. Researchers suspect that over time, chronic noise exposure may damage the cardiovascular system. A certain threshold -- about 60 decibels of street noise -- was important, the researchers report. Beyond that threshold, higher noise levels didn't worsen heart attack risk. And, annoyance from noise was less important than the noise itself, the study shows.

See the Noise Levels in Our Environment page for a list of common sounds and their associated decibel levels.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Carotid stents improve brain function

Patients with carotid artery blockage, even when they're considered asymptomatic, experience significant improvements in neurocognitive function after they undergo carotid artery stenting, investigators reported.

These astonishing findings show that patients with narrowed carotid arteries were, in fact, having neurocognitive deficits involving memory and executive functions, and that these deficits improved after the interventional radiology treatment. This study corroborates results from two previous small studies out of the U.S. and Germany.

The study indicates that patients could benefit from being treated earlier in their disease than currently thought. In spite of being classified as "asymptomatic," these patients are clearly having a dampening in brain function.

The procedure also improves brain function in symptomatic patients, but "asymptomatic" patients had the biggest gain. Though all those studied showed improvement, the younger patients did better. They have more neurocognitive reserve and had the biggest gains in neurocognitive function. The improvement was due to the increase in blood flow to the brain, as shown on MRI after the procedure.

"These patients are seeing better and thinking better, and those with least degree of disease had the greatest gain. What we found was earth-shaking," presenter Dr. Rodney D. Raabe told Reuters Health. "These findings are going to change the way we think about carotid artery disease, carotid endarterectomy and the whole classification of patients as to whether they're symptomatic or asymptomatic."

"Some patients whose functioning was so poor that they were being considered for nursing home placement, are now doing quite well living independently at home. This study shows that people, even before they have a stroke, are probably not functioning as well as they could be." patients with early dementia may actually be experiencing the results of blocked carotid arteries and that their condition can be reversed.

Phenomenal stuff. Breakthrough research. Could this help someone you know? Sure, we need a control group for definitive proof, but hey, I'm ready to get in line for the study should I need it.

Now, what was that second study? Boy, is my memory..... Oh yeah, here it is:

There is bad news in the stroke research community, today. Only one in 10 people who suffer a mini-stroke make their way to the emergency department for prompt treatment and fewer than half get treatment quickly enough, according to a troubling new study.

The research, published in today's edition of the medical journal Stroke, is of concern because those who suffer transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or mini-strokes) are at high risk of being felled by a full-blown stroke within hours or days. One in five TIA sufferers will have a stroke within three months -- and many of these "brain attacks" occur within 48 hours.

Study authors recommend getting to the emergency room if you have these symptoms:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, limbs, or one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or difficulty walking
  • Sudden severe headache