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Stroke Smart Magazine

March/April 2007

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Meth Use May Lead to Stroke
The use of the drug Methamphetamine, also known as “Meth,” is more than just a social concern. A recent study showed that Meth use can cause tears in the neck arteries, which could cause a stroke.

On the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, a standardized tool used on stroke patients to decide stroke severity, a score over 16 predicts a high chance of death or severe disability. In the study, strokes caused by Meth ranked as high as 21.

It is estimated that more than one million people used meth last year. Methamphetamine use can have both short-term and long-term effects on the brain, including mood swings, anxiety and depression.  It also increases a person’s heart rate and blood pressure, further increasing the risk for stroke.

Depressed People May Have Higher Stroke Risk
People under 65 years of age who suffer from depression may be at a higher risk for having a stroke, according to a new study.

Researchers at Boston University followed 4,120 people who had bouts with depression.  During the eight years of the study, there were 144 strokes and 84 mini-strokes (TIAs).  The people who had higher levels of depression were four times more likely to have a stroke or TIA than those with lower levels of depression.

Not using prescription drugs correctly, eating unhealthy foods and being inactive also increased stroke risk.

Blood Test Could Warn of Impending Stroke
Would you like to know in advance if you could have a stroke? The findings of a new study might make that possible. Having a simple blood test may alert you if you are at risk for a stroke or heart attack, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The presence of a biomarker called NT-proBNP in the blood may help determine risk.  People with a high level of the substance were up to eight times more likely to die or have serious health problems than those with a lower level.

Folic Acid Reduces Risk for Stroke
Taking folic acid may help lower risk of stroke and heart disease, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

For years there has been an ongoing debate on whether folic acid is helpful in preventing stroke and heart disease. Recently, scientists examined the evidence found in previous studies to find an answer.

What they concluded was that scientific evidence was strong enough to justify using folic acid and that lowering these levels provided a benefit. Folic acid was seen to lower homocysteine (amino acid) levels in the blood, and might provide guard against stroke. Folic acid can be found in the following foods:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Fortified breakfast cereals, enriched grain products and pastas
  • Liver
  • Beans and peas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Sprouts

Studies on this topic are still ongoing, so check with your doctor to see if folic acid will be a benefit to you and help lower your stroke risk.

Stem Cell Study and Stroke
The first clinical trial to study stem cell therapy for the treatment of stroke is set to begin this year with the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Previous studies have shown that stem cells may help to rebuild damaged cells and body functions. In a study with rats that had a stroke, stem cell therapy was helpful in improving their ability to move and regain their functions.

Scientists want to be clear that stem cells probably do not replace lost cells during stroke, but help to repair and aid in the development of new brain cells and blood vessels.

If this phase I clinical trial is given approval, University of Pittsburgh researchers will begin testing the therapy on 10 patients who have suffered an ischemic (clot-caused) stroke the most common form.  Patients will be monitored over a two-year period so that researchers can see the effects of the therapy on humans.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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