stroke

6 ways to prevent a stroke

When it comes to preventing a stroke, simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference.

Strokes occur when blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain burst or are blocked by a clot. When that happens, brain cells begin to die, affecting a person’s memory and ability to control muscles.

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and in Kentucky, but there’s good news: Nearly 80 percent of all strokes are preventable.

In celebration of American Stroke Month, we’ve put together a list of things you can do to live a healthier lifestyle and better your chances of avoiding a stroke.

1. Get moving.

Regular physical activity will help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, two of the biggest risk factors for stroke. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. Something as simple as a brisk walk or bike ride with a friend will work wonders for your overall health.

2. Stop smoking.

Smokers are twice as likely to experience a stroke as nonsmokers. That’s because smoking thickens blood and increases the likelihood of clots. If you’re struggling to quit smoking, ask your doctor for help. And check out our blog with tips and resources that can help you or someone you know start on the path toward success.

3. Eat your vegetables.

And beans, whole grains and nuts, too – all of which are staples of a healthy diet. Improving your diet will help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and help you maintain a healthy weight. Check out our guide for kick-starting a healthy diet.

4. Drink less.

Alcohol can increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke. Moderation is the key: For men, no more than two drinks a day, and for women, no more than one.

5. Learn about Afib.

Atrial fibrillation, also known as Afib, is a type of irregular heartbeat. If left untreated, Afib can cause blood clots in the heart that can move to the brain and cause a stroke. Talk to your doctor about Afib if you experience symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath. Learn more about the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s Heart Rhythm Program and listen to a podcast with our Afib specialist, Dr. Ted Wright.

6. Understand the things you can’t control.

Although improving your diet, ramping up your activity and living a healthy lifestyle can all decrease your risk for stroke, there are some risk factors you cannot control. Things like age, gender and race all play a role in stroke risk, and even though you can’t change those factors, it’s important to understand if you’re more susceptible.

Click the icon below to see our Stroke Quick Facts inforgraphic.

Stroke quick facts infographic from UK HealthCare


Next steps:

  • At the UK Comprehensive Stroke Center, we offer treatment, prevention and rehabilitation services for stroke patients. Learn more about our program.
  • Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of UK’s Women’s Heart Health Program, writes about why knowing your family health history can help you understand your own risk of disease. Read her blog.

 

Many people know the dangers that exposure to sunlight can pose to the skin, but did you know it can also severely damage your eyes?

Here comes the sun! Get outside, but be sure to protect your eyes

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

The weather is warming up, and sunshine, swimming and the great outdoors are on everyone’s mind. While there is a lot of fun to be had in the summer, we must also consider how to adequately protect our eyes and skin, which can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Wear sunglasses with UV protection

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation can cause sunburns and in some cases lead to cancer. UV radiation can also be a catalyst for cataracts, an eye condition marked by blurred vision. The best way to keep your eyes safe in the sun is to wear sunglasses with UV protection that prevent UV rays from entering the eye.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) determines the safety of ophthalmic sunglasses and verifies that they can prevent ultraviolet radiation from damaging the eye. Look for the “ANSI” symbol and “UV protection” when purchasing sunglasses. Keep in mind that cheaper shades are more affordable and trendy, but they may not offer you any protection from ultraviolet radiation.

In fact, wearing sunglasses without protection from ultraviolet radiation can actually do more harm than wearing nothing at all. When you wear nothing over your eyes, your tendency is to squint or keep your eyes closed, and the brightness naturally makes your pupils constrict, allowing fewer harmful rays to enter your eye. But your eyes dilate slightly when you wear tinted lenses, which lets more harmful rays enter your eye.

Apply sunscreen around your eyes

Additionally, the eyelid and eyebrow region is especially susceptible to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which make up 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers. Because the skin around the eye is very thin and contains very little subcutaneous tissue, it makes it easier for tumors to spread to nearby nasal and orbital cavities. Sunscreen with SPF is a simple way to prevent damage to the skin, but people often overlook applying sunscreen to their eyelids and area around their eyes as it often irritates their skin.

Buying facial lotions formulated for sensitive skin and applying a small amount with your eyes closed can prevent it from burning. Some people find that applying their daily facial cream first and allowing it to dry before applying SPF lotion helps prevent sunscreen irritation.

Get out there and enjoy the sunshine, but don’t forget to apply SPF sunscreen around your eyes and wear some UV-protected sunglasses!


Next steps:

UK scientists are encouraging Kentuckians to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, which can cause irritation and spread disease.

Protect yourself against mosquito bites this summer

Recent warm weather and heavy rains have given mosquitoes a head start on summer, UK scientists say. Thanks to the weather, mosquitoes are appearing earlier than normal this year, and UK entomologists are encouraging Kentuckians to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites on themselves and their families.

Mosquito bites can cause skin irritation in the form of itchy, red bumps at the location of the bites, and the insects can also spread harmful diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and others.

Mosquitoes’ early arrival

This past week, UK entomologists captured Asian tiger mosquitoes in Central Kentucky. These mosquitoes normally appear in this area in mid-June, and populations begin to climb throughout the summer, peaking in late July and early August. The mosquitoes tend to arrive in Western Kentucky a little earlier and appear in Eastern Kentucky a little later than in Central Kentucky.

This Asian tiger mosquito is responsible for 85 percent of the bites Kentuckians receive.

“The Asian tiger mosquito is opportunistic; it feeds on several species of animals in addition to humans,” said Lee Townsend, UK extension entomologist. “It tends to bite humans around the ankles, an area that is often overlooked when applying repellents.”

Tips for protection

Take the following measures to protect yourself and loved ones this summer:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.
  • Drain any standing water, as it is a potential breeding site for mosquitoes. This includes bird baths, bottles and any other items with water-holding capacity like old tires or trash.
  • Fill in holes, depressions and puddles in yards.
  • Keep gutters in proper working order.
  • Make sure door and window screens are in good condition.
  • Stay indoors between 4 and 8 p.m. when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors.

Next steps:

Ask about your family's health history. Knowing it gives you and your doctor crucial information that will guide your healthcare plan.

Knowing your family’s health history can help you stay healthier

Written by Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the Women’s Heart Health Program at the UK Gill Heart and Vascular Institute.

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Women tend to be the keepers of family history. Some of that information is fun, like your first words or your brother’s sports awards. But mothers can also have information that could help reduce your risk of heart disease. Many of us talked to our mothers this past Mother’s Day, but the next time you speak with your mom, make sure to talk about your family health history.

Ask her: Did your grandfather have a heart attack? Did your aunt have a stroke? Did any of your family members have diabetes? How old were they when this happened? The answers to these questions can help you understand your own disease risk.

Your family history gives you and your doctor crucial information that will guide your healthcare plan. While you can’t counteract your genetics, if you have a family history of heart disease, you can change your behavior to reduce your risk. By committing to healthier habits for yourself – such as improved diet, more exercise and quitting smoking – you also become a role model for family members who share your genetic traits.

Even if your family has a clean bill of health, there are other factors, such as race or ethnicity, that can increase your risk for heart disease. For example, African-Americans have higher risks for diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. One in three Hispanics will suffer from high blood pressure, and nearly half will have high cholesterol levels.

A family history can be helpful for more than just heart disease, since genetics can play a role in many other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, some cancers and osteoporosis.

If your mother can’t answer these questions, ask your father, an aunt or other family member what they know, and then share this information with your healthcare provider, who can tailor a plan to help you counteract the potential negative effects of your genetics.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., and stroke is No. 5. Knowing your family’s health history is one important step to help you avoid these devastating diseases.


Next steps:

We know that quitting smoking isn’t easy, so we’ve put together a list of resources that can help you or someone you know start on the path toward success.

Be a quitter! Tips for finally conquering your smoking addiction

If you’re a smoker, you probably already know it’s not a healthy habit. The benefits of not smoking are vast, but the bottom line is this: if you stop smoking now, you’ll have a better quality of life and very likely have more years to live it.

We know that quitting smoking isn’t easy, but we’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of tips and resources that can help you or someone you know start on the path toward success. Check them out and pass them along to family and friends.

  • Learn about smoking-cessation aids. Quitting cold turkey isn’t the best option for everyone, and aids like nicotine patches, nicotine gum and medicines for withdrawal symptoms can help make quitting easier. At UK HealthCare, low-cost nicotine replacement products are available in our pharmacies and gift shops.
  • Make it through the hardest part. It’s often said that if you can make it through your first week of not smoking, when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst, you’ll be on your way to success. From establishing new morning routines and daily habits to exercising more, little lifestyle changes can help you get through the toughest part of your journey.
  • Consider your triggers. Different triggers make different people reach for a cigarette. Plan ahead for the things that cause you to smoke and come up with an alternative plan. Do you smoke during work breaks? Try taking a walk instead. Find a replacement, keep your hands busy, chew gum or take yourself to locations where smoking isn’t allowed.
  • Avoid smoke at all costs. Ask people not to smoke around you, and avoid those who do.
  • Don’t ignore your emotions. Quitting is stressful, and you’ll need to find ways of dealing with your feelings that don’t include cigarettes. Find someone to talk to about your feelings. Take slow, deep breaths, exercise or listen to calming music.
  • Realize that a relapse isn’t the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a cigarette after quitting. Relapse is a common occurrence and nothing to be ashamed of. Understanding why you chose to smoke is often the key to preventing it from happening again. Treat a relapse like an emergency: Figure out what caused it, and come up with strategies to keep it from happening again.
  • Remind yourself why you’re quitting. Consider writing all your reasons on a piece of paper and keeping it in your purse or wallet. “My kids. My husband. My health. Feeling more energetic. Looking younger. Keeping my breath fresh …” List as many reasons as you can think of, then pull the card out when you’re craving a cigarette to remind yourself of your motivation.

From a healthier heart and lungs to whiter teeth and fewer wrinkles, you’ll reap major health benefits when you stop smoking.


Next steps:

LSVT LOUD

UK speech-language pathologists work to help patients with communication issues

Written by Elizabeth Campbell, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech pathologist at the UK Voice & Swallow Clinic.

Liz Campbell, MA, CCC-SLP

For most of us, communication is something we take for granted. But for people with communication disorders, it can require extra assistance and hard work.

Each year during the month of May, speech-language pathologists and audiologists celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month by raising awareness about people with communication disorders and promoting ways to improve their quality of life. This includes people with a variety of communication challenges that affect speech, language, voice, hearing, problem solving and other communicative functions.

Parkinson’s and communication challenges

You may already be familiar with one condition that can result in a communication disorder: Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the brain that causes damage to specific nerve cells. This results in tremors, muscle weakness, stiff muscles, balance problems and difficulty walking.

Throughout the course of the illness, Parkinson’s disease can also negatively affect a person’s speech. For these patients, this impact can include a low speaking volume (called hypophonia), hoarseness, monotone voice quality and unclear words. Patients can also have difficulty coordinating their breathing and speaking. These changes can interfere with effective communication.

Imagine if others asked you to repeat yourself in a conversation, could not hear you on the phone or described your voice as monotone. Furthermore, imagine you are unable to monitor your own loudness. You would probably feel very frustrated trying to communicate. These are common problems for patients with Parkinson’s disease, making it difficult for them to improve their speech without assistance.

Treatment options

Fortunately, there are treatments that can help. One option is called Lee Silverman Voice Therapy, or LSVT LOUD. This program uses loud speech tasks to strengthen motor systems used for speech, with the goal of improving a patient’s ability to communicate. It follows a series of exercises that emphasize “thinking loud” by using healthy vocal loudness, not shouting or yelling.

Research shows that it helps patients speak more loudly, with more natural intonation and with a clearer voice. This program helps patients improve their awareness of their speaking volume by stimulating the sensory and motor systems. With louder and clearer speech, patients often become more confident in their communication. This improves quality of life for the patient and the people they communicate with.

LSVT LOUD therapy is specially designed for use with patients with Parkinson’s disease and has been studied by researchers for more than 20 years. Treatment is intensive and involves four sessions per week for four weeks. This is required for the brain to develop a better process for louder speech.

Patients who are interested in addressing their Parkinson’s-related speech changes will need an evaluation with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) to assess the voice box (larynx), as well as an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist who specializes in voice disorders. If LSVT LOUD therapy is recommended, patients should look for speech-language pathologists with an LSVT LOUD certification, as there is specific training that clinicians must complete before utilizing this program.


Next steps:

DASH diet

The DASH diet is easy to follow and good for your health

Do you want to eat better, but don’t know where to start? Consider the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet.

The DASH diet was initially created to help lower blood pressure. But studies have also found the DASH diet to be one of the best options to prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some forms of cancer. Research also shows the DASH plan is safe and effective for short-term and permanent weight loss.

The best news is the DASH diet is easy to follow because it does not restrict entire food groups. Because the plan focuses on fresh fruits and veggies, controlling your calories is easier, too. Learn more about the DASH diet below.

What is the DASH diet?

The DASH plan is promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The plan helps reduce the risk for serious health problems because it is low in:

  • Saturated fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Total fat
  • Red meat
  • Sweets
  • Sugary beverages

The DASH diet encourages:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products
  • Whole-grain foods
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Nuts

The DASH diet is also rich in important nutrients such as:

  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Fiber

Tips for following the DASH diet

To reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, try these steps:

  • Choose fresh, frozen or canned vegetables that have low sodium or no added salt.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish or meat instead of canned, smoked or processed options.
  • Limit cured foods such as bacon and ham, foods packed in brine, and condiments.
  • Cook rice or pasta without salt.
  • Cut back on frozen dinners, packaged mixes, and canned soups or broths.
  • Rinse canned foods such as tuna and canned beans to remove some of the salt.
  • Use spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Add fruit to breakfast or have it as a snack.
  • Treat meat as one part of the whole meal, instead of the main focus.

Some days you might eat more sodium or fewer foods from one group than the plan suggests. But don’t worry. Try your best to keep the average on most days close to the DASH plan levels.

Following the DASH diet

Here’s how much of each food group you should eat every day, based on eating 2,000 calories per day.

6-8 servings of whole grains. A serving size is about one slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta.

4-5 servings of vegetables. A serving size is about 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetable or a 1/2 cup of cut-up raw or cooked vegetables.

4-5 servings of fruits. A serving size is about one medium fruit; 1/4 cup of dried fruit; 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit; or 1/2 cup of real fruit juice.

2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy. A serving size is about 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.

Up to 6 servings of lean meat, poultry, fish. A serving size is about 1 ounce of cooked meat, poultry, or fish, or one egg.

4-5 servings per week of nuts, seeds, legumes: A serving size is about 1/3 cup or 1 1/2 ounces of nuts, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons or 1/2 ounce of seeds, 1/2 cup of cooked, dry beans or peas.

2-3 servings of fats and oils: A serving size is about 1 teaspoon of soft margarine, 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of  mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons of salad dressing.

Up to 5 servings per week of sweets: A serving size is about 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam, 1/2 cup of sorbet or gelatin or 1 cup of lemonade.


Next steps:

April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, the perfect time for women to learn more about eye issues that affect them more regularly than men.

Women, here’s what you should know about your eyes

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Eye health and vision issues can affect everyone, but there are certain conditions that are more common in women than in men. April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month and a great time for women to learn more about the issues that uniquely affect them.

Dry eyes, migraines

With women’s hormonal changes being so frequent throughout their lifetime, including changes associated with birth control, it’s no wonder that women experience eye and vision issues linked with hormonal changes. Two such issues include dry eyes and migraines.

Dry eyes can be annoying and debilitating, but the good news is that they are easy to treat. Artificial tears, emulsions, gels and ointments can offer relief for dry eyes. If heavy lubrication with artificial tear eye drops is not working to manage your symptoms of burning, redness and irritation, speak with your eye doctor about alternative treatment options.

Migraines are severe, painful headaches sometimes accompanied by symptoms of nausea, numbness, light and noise sensitivity, and vomiting. But they can also cause visual disturbances known as scintillating scotomas. These moving lights and patterns, sometimes called a visual aura, can mimic the signs of a retinal detachment or tear. If you see flashes of light or spots in your view, be sure to have a dilated eye exam within 24 hours of these symptoms.

Eye issues linked to obesity

With diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the rise, Americans – both men and women – are struggling with obesity. However, overweight young women of child-bearing ages are at an increased risk for a condition known as idiopathic increased intracranial pressure, or pseudotumor cerebri. This condition causes an increase in brain pressure, damaging the optic nerves and potentially leading to blindness.

Women with pseudotumor cerebri often complain of headaches, ringing sounds in their ears and mild visual blurriness, though sometimes visual symptoms are not present at all. If you think you may be at risk for this condition and are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.


Next steps:

Distracted driving

Texting, other distractions could cost you your life

The majority of car crashes involve drivers who were distracted in the seconds leading up to the accident. In Kentucky alone, distracted driving caused 58,000 collisions in 2015. Not surprisingly, younger drivers under the age of 20 are most likely to be responsible for accidents stemming from distracted driving.

There are three main types of driving distractions:

  • Visual distractions, which occur when you take your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distractions, which occur when you your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive distractions, which occur when you take your mind off what you’re doing.

Although all distractions can endanger a driver’s safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distractions.

Since 2015, Kentucky has banned drivers under 18 from using cellphones – including hands-free devices – while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from texting while on the road.

If you are 18 or older, use good judgment if talking on a cellphone while driving. Tell the caller you may have to end the conversation. Follow these guidelines:

  • Position your phone within easy reach.
  • Dial numbers while you are not moving.
  • Do not engage in stressful or emotional conversations while driving.

Be aware that cellphones are not the only culprits in distracted driving. Other causes include:

  • Reaching for an object.
  • Using music controls.
  • Talking or listening to passengers.
  • Reading and/or writing.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking.
  • Grooming.
  • Children and pets.

Next steps:

Chefs in Action

Chefs In Action teaches healthy cooking techniques

When UK HealthCare opened its state-of-the-art dining facility, Chandler Dining, last year, it embraced the concept that food service should be as involved in teaching healthy habits as medical and nursing staff.

The long lines of institutional steamers and shelving to slide plastic trays along were gone, replaced instead with cooking hubs where diners can choose nutritious, freshly prepared food ingredients and have their dish prepared to order before their eyes.

The new facility, which is open to patients, families, staff and the public, offers restaurant-quality food selections that you wouldn’t expect to see in a hospital cafeteria.

Perhaps less expected was a teaching kitchen where chefs can demonstrate healthy meal preparations. UK HealthCare Executive Chef Pete Combs was tasked with creating a platform for sharing with hospital patients, visitors and staff the tips and techniques that make food more nutritious. The result? A monthly series called Chefs in Action.

“Chefs in Action is designed to help people see that it’s not difficult to cook healthy dishes with high-quality ingredients,” said Combs, a food service industry veteran of more than 30 years. “The power of food [in improving health] is huge.”

At 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month, Combs and sous chefs Justin Clark and Sarah Null prepare a themed menu with an extra dash of theater and humor. At the February event, the Heart Month-themed menu included:

  • Flaxseed hummus with almond crackers, jicama, rainbow peppers and carrot.
  • Three-bean salsa with avocado, tomato and cucumber chips.
  • Roasted butternut squash boat with asparagus, ginger, almond and wild mushrooms.
  • Rainbow trout stuffed with Fuji apples, walnuts, spinach and raisins with orange saffron sauce.
  • Raspberry banana and dark chocolate bites.

As they demonstrated each recipe and distributed free samples to the audience, dietitians Andrea Francis, Jill Haeberlin and Katie Lewis listed the ingredients in each dish and explained how they boosted heart health.

“Sharing nutrition information is as important as showing people how to make the recipe,” Combs said. “People may not want to make the apple-walnut stuffing, but they might add walnuts to one of their favorite dishes once they learn that walnuts can reduce cardiovascular problems and Type 2 diabetes.”

Housley says the long-term goal for Chefs in Action is to make the demos available to patients via the Get Well Network, an in-room patient engagement system that helps improve the transition of care from hospital to home.

“UK HealthCare is not just about medicine,” said J.J. Housley, UK HealthCare’s director of enterprise operations. “This enterprise strives to provide Kentuckians with the tools for healthy living, and why wouldn’t our food service be a significant player in that effort?”

The next Chefs in Action will be at 4 p.m., this Thursday, April 20.  The menu will center on healthy twists to Kentucky’s classic dishes. No reservations are necessary and the event is free. Check out the video below to learn more about Chefs in Action.


Next steps: