Healthy Living in the North

June is Stroke Awareness Month in Canada

The image gives the acronym F.A.S.T. or "fast" for the signs of a stoke. F for Face - Is it drooping? A for Arms - Can you raise both? S for Speech - Is it slurred or jumbled? T for Time to call 9-1-1 right away.

June is Stroke Month. Recognize the sign of a stoke. Photo credit: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2017).

June is Stroke Awareness Month in Canada, a time to learn more about what a stroke is, what the risk factors are, and what some of the key signs and symptoms may be.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood stops flowing to a part of your brain damaging brain cells. The effects of stroke can vary depending on the part of the brain that was affected, type of stroke, and how much of the brain was damaged.

What are the risk factors of a stroke?

Did you know that stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Canada? In fact, nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for stroke or heart disease. Risk factors for stroke include things that we cannot control (non-modifiable) and things that we can control (modifiable).

Non-modifiable risk factors that can increase your risk of stroke include:

  • Age
    • While a stroke can happen at any age, those over the age of 55 are at a higher risk
  • Family history
    • Having an immediate family member (parent, grandparent, or sibling) with stroke, especially before the age of 65.
    • Certain genetic conditions.
  • Ethnicity
    • Being of African, Hispanic, or South Asian descent.
  • Sex
    • While strokes affect both men and women, it occurs more frequently in women. This is thought to be, in part, due to women having a longer life expectancy than men.
    • Other risk factors specific to women include pregnancy, history of pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, gestational diabetes, oral contraceptives, and hormone replacement therapy.
  • Having had a prior stroke, TIA (mini-stroke), heart attack, or certain conditions such as atrial fibrillation can significantly increase your risk for stroke.

Stroke can happen at any age, but the good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent a stroke. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 80% of strokes are preventable. To decrease the risk of a stroke, you can address modifiable risk factors such as:

  • Getting regular physical activity:
    • Adults aged 18-64 should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in spurts of 10 minutes or more. Adding muscle and bone strengthening activities, at least 2 days per week, is also recommended.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Eating a healthy diet, balanced with fruits and vegetables.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Drinking in moderation.
  • Managing your stress levels.
  • Taking steps to manage your high blood pressure and diabetes.

Visit the Heart and Stroke website to assess your risk and to learn more about how to decrease your risk for stroke.

How to recognize a stroke as it’s happening

Use the FAST (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) acronym to help recognize the signs of a stroke and take action right away:

  • Face… is it drooping?
  • Arms… can you raise both?
  • Speech… is it slurred or jumbled?
  • Time… to call 9-1-1 right away.
Daman Kandola

About Daman Kandola

Daman is a Health Sciences PhD candidate at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and senior Research Associate with the School of Nursing at UNBC. She is currently working as a Research Fellow with Northern Health on stroke care, funded by a national Health System Impact Fellowship through Northern Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Her PhD research explores the use, barriers, and facilitators to the use of emergency health services among stroke survivors and their caregivers in Northern BC. Born in Vancouver, but raised in Prince George, she is passionate about research around health access and equity, particularly among Northern, rural, and remote populations. When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, exploring the outdoors, or travelling.

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UNBC PhD student awarded national fellowship to study stroke care

Daman Kandola with Northern Health supervisor Jessica Place and academic supervisor Davina Banner.
L-R: Dr. Jessica Place, Executive Lead, Regional Chronic Diseases; Daman Kandola, recipient of the HSI Fellowship; and Dr. Davina Banner, academic supervisor.

UNBC PhD candidate Daman Kandola was recently awarded a 2018/2019 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health System Impact Fellowship (HSIF). She’s one of only three PhD fellows in BC, and 20 from across Canada. Daman’s research focuses on the delivery of stroke-related care across the Northern Health region.

Daman is the first person from UNBC to be awarded a CIHR HSIF fellowship and is excited to be recognized.

“It’s amazing to have the importance of this work recognized on a national level and to celebrate some of the research we are doing at UNBC,” she said.

This 1-year fellowship supports Northern Health’s mission of promoting health and providing health services to Northern and rural populations. The fellowship is funded jointly by Northern Health and CIHR’s Institute of Health Services and Policy Research. The goal is to train the next generation of scientists in hybrid research and policy careers to work in health systems to address challenges in health service delivery, clinical care, and innovation.

Broken into three phases, Daman’s study looks at the different ways to arrive at the hospital and the time taken to receive stroke care. Sites she’s studying are ones with computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans — they include the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, GR Baker Hospital in Quesnel, Dawson Creek and District Hospital, Fort St. John Hospital, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, and Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. The study is expected to finish in fall 2019.

To understand patient experiences, Daman’s interviewing stroke survivors and their family members.

“This information is very meaningful to learn about each person’s experience. Numbers don’t tell the full story, so hearing directly from those affected is important,” she said. “Findings from this study may be relevant to similar small urban, Northern, rural, and remote regions. We hope that this work will improve health services for acute and time-sensitive conditions including stroke.”

Daman also said she’s grateful for the expertise of her mentors, including academic supervisor Dr. Davina Banner, Northern Health supervisor Dr. Jessica Place and cardiac and stroke lead Kristin Massey. “We’re fortunate to have a wonderful team support this fellowship including patient partners,” says Daman.

If you’d like further information about this work, or if you or someone you know has had a stroke in the last two years and is interested in sharing their stroke experience, contact Daman at kandola@unbc.ca.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Stroke awareness and heart disease

Learn the signs of stroke: Act FAST

Do you know the signs of stroke?

Sometimes we spend so much time doing what we are doing that we forget why we are doing it. This, of course, also happens in men’s health blogging. Why am I blogging?

After rereading Where Are The Men? (the men’s health report), it is once again obvious why I need to do what I am currently doing. We have to somehow give men the ability to live healthier, longer lives by providing information that is current and well-researched.

One thing is clear: men are dying younger than women and we need to address that gap. To do this, we need to address the causes of earlier male mortality and look at the lifestyle factors that contribute to that. Lifestyle factors are things that we men can change. Making small changes to your lifestyle will have a big effect on your health! So what can we men do to live longer, healthier lives?

It’s Stroke Month so I’ll start there!

Heart disease and stroke prevention

The Heart & Stroke Foundation has information on the risk factors that you can do something about to prevent heart disease. For the Mayo Clinic, they present this as five steps to follow to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.
  • Eat a diet that’s healthy.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular checkups.

If you are overweight, smoke and have a poor diet, the road ahead can seem overwhelming. It is, however, very achievable. How, you ask?

Start with one step. Then add another.

At first, the best step might simply be to go to the doctor and have your blood pressure checkup. Then you have a starting point that can be a valuable place from which to decide your next move in consultation with the doctor.

In addition, add some fruit and vegetables to your diet, as well as some extra activity and exercise to your life. For some people, this is best done by doing something that makes sense to them, like walking to work. Park the car further away. Take the stairs. Stand up more often if you are in a sitting job. Simple things done often can mean a lot in the long term.

Stop smoking.

If you smoke, there really is no getting around it. You have to stop.

Stopping smoking is the one big thing that you can do to help yourself. Nicotine replacement therapy is now available via 8-1-1 to help you quit and your doctor can also help if you are having a really hard time.

A stroke is a real, life-threatening emergency and requires rapid emergency response. Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of having one. Let’s make some changes!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Reducing the risk of stroke

The journey

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” -Lao Tzu

As summer rolls on, it can be difficult to continue finding events to write about, but one topic that will never cease being important is making small changes to your lifestyle that have a big effect on your health!

Heart disease and stroke prevention

The Mayo Clinic recommends five steps to follow which will reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week
  • Eat a diet that’s healthy
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular check-ups

Research is good but how do we turn that information into real change in our lives? If you are overweight, smoke and have a bad diet, the road ahead can seem overwhelming and the best advice I can give is from a picture on the wall in my office:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” -Lao Tzu

Start with one step and add another

At first, the best step might simply be to go to the doctor and have a check-up. Then you have a starting point that can be a valuable place to dictate your next move.

In addition, add some fruit and vegetables to your diet, as well as some extra activity and exercise to your life. For some people this is best done by doing something that makes sense to them such as walking to work.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, there really is no getting around it. You have to stop.

It might help to try and motivate you by telling yourself that you will stop anyway – if you have a heart attack. So it’s best to reduce the risk of that by just stopping now.

Stopping smoking is the one big thing that you can do to help yourself. Nicotine replacement therapy is now available to help the quit and your doctor also can help if you are having a really hard time.

Some research has shown that there might be an advantage to wearing a nicotine patch and reducing your cigarette intake two weeks prior to quitting for good. In this way you are preparing yourself for the quit while actually reducing the level of harmful chemicals and carbon monoxide in the blood.

It might just work for you and, in any case, it’s a step in the right direction!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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February is Heart Month

Six warning signs of a heart attack

Watch for the six warning signs of a heart attack. (Source: www.heartandstroke.com)

One of my colleagues recently sent me an email with the link for this short and funny video. In her email she asked how having a heart attack could be funny, but said the video was so great that it needed to be shared with all women.

This video makes me think, why do we need a funny video to make women notice that heart disease is the number one killer of women?

I think it’s that women are the caregivers to the family. Just like the Heart and Stroke Foundation video on “Make Death Wait” shows, women are so concerned that heart disease will affect others in our family that we don’t realize that it is actually coming for us.

February is Heart Month and we should be doing all we can to help ourselves! Here are some tips:

  1. Get informed. Seek out information from great sites like Heart and Stroke Foundation – take a look at their “Women and Heart Disease and Stroke” information.
  2. Know your risk. Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death for Canadian women. Did you know that most Canadian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke? Take the quiz and see what your risk is.
  3. Take control of your health.  We know that if women put their health first by making changes they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80%.

If we can do this for ourselves, our girlfriends, our best friends, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our nieces and granddaughters, we can hopefully all live a little longer and a little happier.

Barbara Hennessy

About Barbara Hennessy

Barbara Hennessy is Northern Health’s regional coordinator for cardiac & cerebrovascular services, and is very passionate about improving cardiac and cerebrovascular health for people of the north. Barbara has a Master’s in Nursing from Dalhousie University, with a specialty in adult cardiac population. In her previous roles in cardiac nursing, Barbara has worked in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and – saving the best for last – B.C.! In her spare time, Barbara loves reading, crafting, biking and seeing the beauty across northern B.C.

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Know the signs of stroke: It can happen to anyone

My husband is 32 years old, and last month, he had a stroke.

I came home late one evening to find my husband tired and feeling sick to his stomach. After an hour of napping, he sat up and looked at me with a weird expression on his face – his left lip was pulled up slightly and his pupils were dilated. I half-jokingly asked, “What’s wrong with your face – are you having a stroke?” He was aware enough to get up and go to the mirror to see for himself, where he tugged at his lip a bit, but it stayed put. I asked him how he was feeling and he said, “Ummm…” and seemed to be wracking his brain for the right response. When he couldn’t remember what my name was, I knew we had a serious problem.

warning signs of stroke

Do you know the warning signs of stroke? (From www.heartandstroke.com)

June is national Stroke Awareness Month and I wanted to share my story here in the hopes that I can encourage people to learn about the signs of stroke, as I’ve found that many people don’t understand how serious it is. Did you know the following stats?

  • Stroke is an urgent medical emergency that affects more people than you would imagine; the Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that more than 50,000 strokes occurs in Canada every year – that’s one every 10 minutes.
  • The first three and half hours are crucial in preventing long-term damage by receiving clot-busting drugs or other medical treatment, but about two-thirds of Canadians make it to the hospital too late to meet that target. Not surprisingly, adults under the age of 50 take the longest to call 9-1-1 due to denial, thereby risking death.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada.

When I realized there was something wrong with my husband, I admit I still wasn’t sure it was actually a stroke. Strokes only happen to eighty year olds, right? Not so. My husband had no risk factors. That night, he was walking around the house normally, and even went to put on socks when I told him we were going to the hospital, and he functioned as well as he does every morning. But he was experiencing a stroke.

My husband and I are extremely lucky. I got him to the hospital fast enough to save his life, and now, only a month later, he is back to his old self… except for the extreme health kick – a positive side effect of this life-changing experience. We’ve both changed some of our unhealthy habits for the better and look forward to a long and healthy life together.

Make sure you educate yourself and your family by knowing the signs of stroke. It might just save your life one day.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.
(NH Blog Admin)

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