Category: Stroke

The Link Between Heart Disease and Stroke

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 859,000 Americans die of heart disease, stroke, or another cardiovascular disease every year. Because February is American Heart Month, it’s the perfect opportunity to look at how neurological health and heart health are connected. For instance, heart disease and stroke are closely linked in many ways.

High Blood Pressure

According to data from the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, about 78 million US adults have high blood pressure. That’s around 1 in 3 American adults. Only about half of these people have their high blood pressure under control. Approximately 7 in 10 people who have a first heart attack and 8 in 10 people who have a first stroke have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to several factors, including diets high in sodium.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, increases the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease because it damages the lining of the arteries. When the arterial linings are damaged, it is easier for plaque to build up in the arteries. As for what plaque is and where it comes from, look no further than high cholesterol. 

High Cholesterol

High LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad cholesterol,” can double a person’s risk of heart disease. Excess cholesterol combines with calcium and other substances in the blood to form plaque that builds up inside blood vessels and blocks blood flow. Blocked arteries can have negative effects on the heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs. It is also dangerous when blood flow to the legs decreases. Millions of adults in the US have high LDL cholesterol but only about half of them are effectively managing it with medication.

There is also “good” cholesterol in the blood, called HDL. Having high levels of HDL in your blood is not a cause for concern. In fact, it’s considered a good thing. It is thought that HDL carries LDL out of the blood and into the liver. Having healthy HDL levels may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Diabetes

Diabetes can negatively affect many major organs in the body. It increases the risk of stroke and heart disease, and another cardiovascular disease called peripheral artery disease (PAD). It is also linked to kidney disease, vision loss, nerve damage, and high cholesterol.

Being Overweight or Obese

People who are overweight or have obesity, have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke than people of normal weight. Risk factors like high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and type 2 diabetes are also much higher among obese individuals.

Lifestyle Factors

Smoking has an extremely negative effect on overall health, especially cardiovascular health. Smoking causes many cases of heart disease and stroke. This is because it damages the cardiovascular system, the neurological system, and pretty much every other body system. Smokers have stickier blood that is more likely to clot. Clots can block blood flow to both the heart and brain, causing heart attack and stroke. Smoking also raises triglycerides and lowers healthy cholesterol in the blood. It also increases the buildup of plaque in blood vessels. This prevents blood flow and decreases circulation. Smokers may also have thicker and narrower arteries and veins.

Having a healthy diet can reduce a person’s chances of getting heart disease. A healthy diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins and limits saturated and trans fat, added sugars, and sodium.

Exercise can also help lower risks of heart disease and stroke. Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease and stroke even if they do not have any other risk factors. Exercise along with a healthy diet can help combat obesity and reduce the complications of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

At Regional Neurological Associates in New York, we have board-certified neurologists who are experts in the treatment and management of neurologic conditions, including strokes. If you want to learn more about how your heart health may affect your neurological health, call (718) 515-4347 to make an appointment.

7 Reasons to See a Neurologist

Human brain digital illustration. Electrical activity, flashes and lightning on a blue background.; blog: reasons to see a neurologist

 

Neurologists are doctors that have specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the nervous system. Your nervous system is made up of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves throughout your entire body. If you are experiencing symptoms that indicate a problem with your nervous system, your primary doctor will probably refer you to a neurologist. The following are all good reasons to see a neurologist.

1. Existing Neurological Disorders

The presence of a previously diagnosed neurological disorder is probably one of the most obvious reasons to see a neurologist. Even if your symptoms are well controlled, frequent monitoring may be needed. Conditions you might see a neurologist regularly for include

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • History of stroke

2. Persistent Headaches

Most people experience headaches every now and then, but if you have frequent and persistent headaches, then that’s a good reason to see a neurologist. Headaches are a couple and different types of headaches have a multitude of causes. To make sure there is not a serious condition at the root of your headaches, a doctor should evaluate you.

3. Migraine

One coming type of headache that affects many people is a migraine. If you have frequent and persistent headaches accompanied by other symptoms, you may be suffering from migraines. Symptoms of migraine include:

  • Headache on one or both sides of the head
  • Headache that worsens with physical activity
  • Pain that is throbbing or pulsing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sensitivity to sounds
  • Sensitivity to smells

According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine impacts over 37 million people in the United States and 144 million worldwide. If you have symptoms of migraine that your primary care provider is unable to treat, you should see a neurologist.

4. Blackouts

You can think of a blackout as a momentary glitch in the nervous system. During a blackout, the individual is unaware of what is happening and goes into a trance-like state. Sometimes a person will thrash around as if having a seizure during a blackout. Other times they will be motionless and unresponsive. If you experience blackouts frequently, then you should seek attention from a neurologist.

5. Seizures

If you have a seizure but have not been diagnosed with a seizure disorder like epilepsy, you need to see a neurologist. While many types of epilepsy are present during infancy and childhood, there is such a thing as adult-onset epilepsy. A seizure can also be a symptom of another condition such as meningitis or a brain tumor.

6. Dizziness

Dizziness, or vertigo, is the sensation that the world is spinning around you. Or it may seem like you are spinning around while the world is standing still. Vertigo can be life-altering because it prevents you from carrying out daily tasks like going to work and caring for your family. While vertigo may resolve itself after a while, you should still see a neurologist to have the underlying condition diagnosed. Many of the causes are not life-threatening, but they share symptoms with more serious conditions like stroke. Some conditions that are linked to vertigo and dizziness include

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • Meniere’s disease 
  • Vestibular neuritis/labyrinthitis
  • Vestibular migraine

7. Neuropathy 

Peripheral neuropathy, usually just called neuropathy, is the name given to a group of conditions that affect the body’s peripheral nerves. The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system, made up of the brain and spinal cord, to the rest of the body. Neuropathy can take many forms, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Difficulty balancing
  • Poor coordination
  • Burning sensations
  • Numbness, weakness, or tingling in the affected body part
  • Paralysis 

There is a long list of conditions that can cause neuropathy, ranging from autoimmune disease to vitamin deficiencies. One type of neuropathy many people have heard of is diabetic neuropathy, due to how common diabetes is in the US.

Make an Appointment to See a Neurologist

If you have a diagnosed neurological disorder or one of the above symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment to see a neurologist. The dedicated team of professionals at Regional Neurological Associates has advanced training in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders so you can feel confident you are getting expert care. To make an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.

9 Neurological Disorders You Need to Know

Human brain digital illustration. Electrical activity, flashes and lightning on a blue background; blog: 9 Neurological Disorders You Need to Know

 

Due to the complexity of the brain and central nervous system, neurological disorders can seem like a mystery. There are numerous types of diseases and disorders related to neurological health, and a variety of factors that can lead to each condition. If you’re curious about conditions that can affect the brain and central nervous system, here are nine neurological disorders you need to know about.

1. Stroke

A stroke is an interruption or reduction of blood flow to the brain. When the blood supply is limited or stopped, then the brain tissue does not get enough oxygen and other nutrients carried in the blood. Within minutes of a stroke beginning, brain cells will begin to die, causing damage and potentially permanent complications. It is crucial for a stroke patient to get immediate medical attention to minimize those complications.

A person having a stroke may experience trouble with speaking and comprehension, headache, difficulty walking, paralysis (in the face, arm, or leg), or vision problems. Catching these symptoms early is important so treatment can be given as soon as possible. 

2. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system in which abnormal brain activity causes seizures or other periods of unusual behaviors and sensations. Sometimes people with epilepsy experience a loss of awareness of their surroundings during a seizure or episode. The condition may be controlled or managed with medications and surgery.

3. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system (CNS) in which the body’s immune system attacks the CNS. The protective myelin sheaths covering the nerve fibers are damaged, causing communication issues between the brain and the body. There is no cure for MS but some patients respond well to treatments to preserve their quality of life. People with MS experience a wide variety of symptoms including loss of balance, difficulty walking and difficulty with muscle coordination. They may also go through periods where symptoms are in remission. 

4. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement. The disease affects a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, where there is a loss of dopaminergic neurons. Symptoms usually develop gradually as the disease progresses. Tremors are a common symptom that may present as shaking in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head. Patients may also experience limb stiffness, difficulty with balance or walking, slowed movement, and decreased coordination. Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured or reversed, but there are many treatments that are tailored to each patient’s symptoms. Medications and surgical therapy are common treatments, and sometimes lifestyle changes can improve symptoms.

5. Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, commonly referred to as just neuropathy, is a group of conditions related to damage to the peripheral nerves and the symptoms that damage produces. The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves that connects the CNS to the rest of the body. Symptoms vary and range in severity from mild to disabling, but they are rarely life-threatening. A person with neuropathy may experience chronic pain, lack of coordination, or tingling, weakness, or numbness in the area of the damaged nerve, as well as other symptoms.

6. Dementia

Dementia is the term for a group of brain conditions that impair a person’s ability to think, reason, and remember things. In some cases, language skills, the ability to manage emotions, and perception are also impaired. 

Dementia often develops gradually, but in certain cases it may appear suddenly. Sudden onset is usually associated with severe head trauma. Common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s Disease, vascular dementia (caused by strokes or cerebrovascular disease), and Lewy body disease.

There is no cure for most types of dementia, but the effects of dementia caused by infections or vitamin deficiencies may be reversed with treatment. It is estimated that up to half of people 85 and older experience some form of dementia. 

7. Psychiatric and Neurobehavioral Disorders

These disorders are related to the connection between the brain and behavior. Neurobehavioral disorders are impairments associated with brain diseases like multiple sclerosis, stroke, and dementia or brain injury. Psychiatric disorders are associated with abnormal functions of the part of the brain responsible for social cognition. Historically, the study and treatment of these disorders were separate, but today doctors embrace a connection between the two in order to better treat and diagnose a wide range of conditions affecting the brain.

8. Vertigo

Vertigo is a sensation of dizziness. People who experience vertigo sometimes describe it as either feeling like you’re spinning while your surroundings stay still or the feeling that the world around you is spinning and you are standing still. Vertigo is a symptom of a number of conditions including Meniere’s disease, vestibular migraine, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Vertigo can either resolve on its own or be treated based on the underlying cause.

9. Headaches

Headaches and migraines are common neurological disorders that many people are affected by. A headache is defined as pain in any region of the head. There are several different types of headaches with a range of causes and symptoms. Common types of headache pain include sharp pain, throbbing, or aching.

Migraines area type of headache that can be quite severe and incapacitating. Along with head pain, people suffering from migraines may experience nausea, light and noise sensitivity. Symptoms may worsen when moving or bending over. Symptoms can last for several hours or even several days. When someone has more days with a migraine than without one, then they are considered to have chronic migraines.

Make an Appointment

At Regional Neurological Associates, we are committed to providing our patients with expert care for all types of neurological conditions. Our experienced doctors are highly trained in a variety of subspecialties including migraine headaches, stroke, and pain management. If you have questions or concerns about any of these neurological disorders, call us at (718) 515-4347 to make an appointment.

What You Can Do to Help Prevent Stroke

Prevent Stroke

 

May is American Stroke Awareness Month, and at Regional Neurological Associates, part of our mission is to educate our patients, and the general population, on stroke signs and symptoms, risk factors, and prevention methods. We pride ourselves on providing cutting edge neurological care, including stroke recovery. However, the best-case scenario for us is early detection, or, even better, prevention of the stroke.

When it comes to the brain and neurological health, it can seem like there is little we can do to influence it. However, that’s not the case. Steps can be taken to reduce your risk of certain conditions. Changing bad habits and making healthier lifestyle choices are often a key part of maintaining overall wellness, including neurological health.

So, let’s examine some important steps to take to help prevent a stroke.

Know What a Stroke Is

The CDC defines a stroke as an episode that “occurs when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.

Lose Weight & Exercise

Being overweight and sedentary increase your risk of having a stroke, partly because obesity and inactivity are often associated with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. All of these things increase the risk of an ischemic stroke.

If you’re looking to get into an exercise routine and you’re not sure where to start, plan to work out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Curb Drinking

Drinking too much alcohol can raise both your triglycerides and your blood pressure. A two drink per day limit is recommended for men and a one drink per day limit is recommended for women. Another adverse effect of alcohol is that binge drinking can cause irregular heartbeat. Having four or five drinks in a two-hour period is considered binge drinking.

Quit Smoking

Giving up smoking is always a good idea, especially when it comes to preventing circulatory diseases. Nicotine can cause high blood pressure and carbon monoxide can lower blood oxygen. Tobacco also has a long list of adverse effects on vascular health such as: increasing plaque buildup, lowering levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, thickening and narrowing blood vessels, and making blood more likely to clot.

Pay Attention to Nutrition

Diet should be part of your overall wellness plan and contribute to any weight loss plan necessary. However, let’s look at some specific food types to avoid and foods to seek out when trying to prevent stroke.

Avoid:

  • Sodium/salt
  • Trans & saturated fats (high cholesterol)
  • Processed foods containing the above

Choose:

  • Lean protein
  • Leafy greens
  • Fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Foods high in potassium

Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is responsible for more than 50% of strokes, making it the number one cause. Hypertension can increase your chances of having a stroke by four to six times. High blood pressure can cause build up or structural weakness in arteries that can either create blocks to the brain’s blood supply or cause a hemorrhage.

Identify, Monitor and Treat Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat, causes clots within the heart. Those clots can travel up to the brain and cause a stroke.

Be Vigilant About Treating Diabetes

Diabetes can add fifteen years to your cardiovascular age. Meaning, if not treated properly, diabetes can cause a lot of damage to your blood vessels, which can, in turn, increase blood pressure and even a stroke.

Aggressively Treat Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

If you have previously had a TIA, your risk of having a stroke much greater. Make sure you are consulting with your physician and monitoring your progress.

Get Familiar with the Warning Signs of Stroke

If you know what a stroke is, you might already be familiar with the symptoms of a stroke. They can include:

  • Unsteadiness on your feet
  • Vision loss
  • Unusual severe headache
  • Numbness of the face
  • Weakness on one side of the body

One device that helps some people remember the warning signs of stroke is using the acronym FAST.

F: Face – does it droop to one side?

A: Arms – does one arm drift back down when you lift both?

S: Speech – is it slurred or sound odd?

T: Time – call 911 immediately if any of these signs occur.

If you are concerned about the possibility of stroke, schedule an appointment by calling (718) 515-4347. The physicians at Regional Neurological Associates can assist you whether you’re worried about showing the warning signs of stroke, have had a stroke and need help with recovery, or have another neurological issue.

If you think you or someone you love has suffered a stroke, call 911 immediately.

6 Treatable Risk Factors of Stroke

risk factors of stroke

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, with someone dying of stroke every 4 minutes. It is the leading cause of serious long-term disability and overall, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. But, did you know that many of the leading causes of stroke are preventable?

Here are six treatable risk factors of stroke that you can control by making healthy choices and managing existing health conditions:

1. Smoking

Smoking cigarettes doubles your risk of ischemic stroke and increases your risk of hemorrhagic stroke by four times. Those who smoke are also at increased risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. Of course, the best thing you can do is to not start smoking in the first place. But, if you already have, it’s never too late to quit. If you are unable to quit smoking on your own, talk to your healthcare provider about quit-smoking aids such as nicotine patches, medications, counseling and other programs that may be available to you.

2. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for stroke. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure with only slightly half having the condition under control. It is important to check your blood pressure regularly and understand your numbers and risk factors because there are often no warning signs or symptoms. In many cases, high blood pressure can be prevented and managed with simple lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

3. Heart Disease

The term heart and blood vessel disease, or simply heart disease, can be misleading does not refer to a single condition. Instead, it is an umbrella term used to describe several types of conditions that affect the heart including coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, heart infections and congenital heart defects.

Many of these conditions are related to a process called atherosclerosis which develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries within the heart. This buildup of plaque causes the arteries to narrow and restricts the ability for blood to flow through. If the buildup forms a clot that blocks the blood flow entirely, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. As with high blood pressure, you can help lower your risk of heart disease by eating a balanced diet and participating in regular physical activity. Not smoking, managing your weight and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption can also help.

4. Diabetes

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in terms of stroke and cardiovascular disease, having diabetes is the equivalent of aging 15 years. Not only does diabetes affect the body’s ability to process sugar, but also destructive changes to the blood vessel throughout your body, including the brain. While in some cases, diabetes is caused by uncontrollable genetic factors, often times it can be prevented and managed by implementing healthy lifestyle habits.

5. Cholesterol Imbalance

There are two types of cholesterol–low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol” an excess of LDL can cause cholesterol to build up in the blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis, or cardiovascular disease. As previously mentioned, this narrowing of the blood vessels is also a leading cause of stroke. Ways to improve the balance of your cholesterol levels include reducing consumption of saturated and trans fats and increasing your intake of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Physical Inactivity and Obesity

Sedentary lifestyles and obesity have grown to become a widespread health concern, as they have been proven to be associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization reports that obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. For adults, overweight is defined as a body mass index greater than or equal to 25, and obesity as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue, obesity can increase the risk of stroke due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue.

When a Stroke Occurs

While it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of stroke, it is equally important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, as well as how to respond. If think you or someone you loved has suffered a stroke, call 911 immediately.

If the occurrence of a stroke is confirmed, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates can help guide you through the process of stroke recovery, including identifying risk factors to help reduce the risk of recurrence. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.