Archive for May, 2020

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease: Aging, Answers and a Way to Support

Worldwide, 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Alzheimer’s disease does not discriminate amongst those affected, and as we get older, our risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias grows. Learn the facts and get more information about this disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It makes up 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging — it’s a progressive brain disease, meaning it gets worse over time. Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to degenerate. Two abnormal brain structures called plaques and tangles are the main features of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid plaques are clumps of protein fragments that accumulate outside of cells in the brain. Neurofibrillary tangles are clumps of altered proteins inside cells. These abnormalities cause a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that interfere with normal day-to-day abilities.

What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Problems communicating
  • Difficulty doing ordinary activities
  • Misunderstandings of time or place
  • Feeling confused or frustrated (especially at night)
  • Intense mood swings
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Feeling disoriented or getting lost easily
  • Not able to focus

Risk Factors Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists have identified certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age. After age 65, a person’s risk of developing the disease doubles every five years. Researchers have also learned that people who have a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop it than those who do not. The risk increases if more than one family member has the disease.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently, this disease does not have a cure but there are things you can do to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The risks for heart disease are the same risks for Alzheimer’s, so healthy monitoring and proper care for high blood pressure and cholesterol, along with regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet are essential.

A Place to Seek Care

Emory’s Integrated Memory Care Clinic (IMCC) is a nationally recognized patient-centered medical home that provides individualized primary care for those who are living with dementia. It is here that answers can be provided for questions from loved ones, family members and caregivers. Self-guided education for dementia and other brain-related diseases is highly encouraged. We understand it can often be more difficult to be sure you are getting the necessary information you need on your own, so our dedicated team is readily available to answer questions and provide the level of care you deserve and have come to expect from Emory.

Take Action and Show Your Support

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks people around the world to “go purple.” Find a way to join in on the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Here are a few options:

  • Wear your purple during June to show support.
  • Talk about it! Raise brain health awareness by bringing it into conversation.
  • Donate to Alzheimer’s research.
  • Volunteer for a clinical trial.

Emory researchers work diligently to uncover the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and to improve treatment options by leading clinical trials. Thanks to volunteers from our community, both with and without Alzheimer’s disease, we’re making headway and accelerating Emory’s efforts to find a cure.

Learn more about the Integrated Memory Care Clinicor call 404-778-7777

More about the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association offers information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, including Lewy body and vascular dementias. You’ll find information on everything from legislation related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to local resources, such as caregiver training and support groups, programs such as SafeReturn®, and stage-specific information.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website

Emory Brain Health Center

The Emory Brain Health Center uniquely integrates neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, rehabilitation medicine, and sleep medicine and transforms patient-centered care for brain and spinal cord conditions through research and discovery. Bringing these specialties together allows more than 400 researchers and clinicians from different areas to collaborate to predict, prevent, treat or cure devastating diseases and disorders of the brain more rapidly. These collaborations are demonstrated in numerous centers and programs across the Brain Health Center, including the Epilepsy Center, Pituitary Center, Stroke Center, Treatment-Resistant Depression Program, and Veterans Program.

Emory’s multidisciplinary approach is transforming the world’s understanding of the vast frontiers of the brain, harnessing imagination and discovery to address 21st century challenges.

Learn more about comprehensive, diagnostic and innovative treatment options at the Emory Brain Health Center.

Seek Care for Heart Attack, Stroke in the Emergency Room

ambulance at emergency room entranceAccording to a poll conducted in part by the American College of Emergency Physicians, nearly a third of American adults (29 percent) say that they have delayed or avoided medical care because they are concerned about contracting COVID-19. Waiting to see a doctor in a medical emergency could be life-threatening, and while it’s important to follow social distancing guidelines, it’s critical to know when to go to the emergency department.

Heart attacks and strokes still happen, even during a global pandemic. Health officials around the country are reporting a decline in individuals seeking care in emergency rooms (ER) despite the fact that heart attack and stroke rates are not declining.

A heart attack or stroke can happen at any time. And no matter when it occurs, calling 9-1-1 and going to the ER is still the best place to get lifesaving treatment.

Safe, Proven Treatment Available in Emergency Rooms

Emergency rooms are specially equipped with medication, professionals, diagnostic tests and therapies to treat serious conditions like heart attack and stroke quickly and reliably.

The clot-busting drug tPA has been proven to reduce the risk of disability from a stroke. However, individuals must receive this therapy within four and a half hours of experiencing symptoms.

Time is just as critical during a heart attack. The more quickly a blocked artery is reopened, the better chance individuals have for survival and reduced risk for heart damage.

Hospitals are prepared to deliver these therapies and procedures.

Despite this access to lifesaving care, many people may be hesitant to turn to the ER right now. Stories about overwhelmed hospitals dominate national news. And some individuals may be concerned about their risk of becoming exposed to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Emergency medical providers are specially trained to handle both types of patients: Those in need of immediate care for serious conditions like heart attack and stroke; and suspected cases of COVID-19.

Signs of Heart Attack and Stroke

The first step in getting the care you or a loved one needs is knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.

Heart Attack Signs

The most common signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort – Pain or discomfort is felt around the center or left side of the chest. It can last longer than a few minutes or may go away and come back. Some individuals experience it as pressure, pain, fullness or squeezing.
  • Shortness of breath – This can occur during rest or light physical activity, like walking up the stairs.
  • Discomfort in the upper body – A heart attack can include pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach.

Other symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Cold sweat
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy

Stroke Signs

Remember “FAST” to identify the signs of a stroke:

  • Face Drooping – One side of the face droops or feels numb. Individuals experiencing a stroke may have a lopsided smile.
  • Arm Weakness – One arm may feel weak or numb. When lifting both arms, one may drift down.
  • Speech – Speech may become slurred and difficult to understand.
  • Time – Call 9-1-1 if any signs or symptoms of a stroke are present.

Other symptoms of a stroke may also include:

  • Sudden numbness on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, including difficulty speaking or understanding what is said
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Sudden severe headache

What to do for Heart Attack or Stroke During COVID-19 Outbreak

When it comes to heart attack and stroke, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you think you or a loved one are experiencing a stroke or heart attack. Do not drive yourself or have someone else drive you to a hospital. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) can begin delivering lifesaving treatment before you even leave your home.

The local emergency room is ready, able and well-equipped to treat heart attacks, strokes and other medical emergencies. Don’t delay seeking the care you or your loved ones need.

For more information about stroke, visit emoryhealthcare.org/stroke.
For more information about heart attack, visit emoryhealthcare.org/heart.

Stroke Awareness: Know the Signs, Symptoms & Treatments

Stroke symptomsStrokes are serious medical emergencies that require immediate care. Prompt treatment can reduce damage to the brain and lessen other complications.

During a stroke, the blood supply to part of your brain is blocked or reduced, causing brain cells to die within minutes because they’re not getting the oxygen and nutrients they need.

How Common Are Strokes?

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America. It can occur at any age, but people over the age of 65 are at the highest risk. There’s also a nine-state region, known as the Stroke Belt (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee), recognized by public health officials for having a higher rate of stroke.

Risk Factors

A stroke can happen to anyone, at any age. But it’s important to note that smoking and high blood pressure cause half of all strokes. Things that increase your risk of stroke include:

  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Being 65 or older

Stroke Symptoms

Experts have come up with the acronym F.A.S.T. to help you spot symptoms of a stroke. Here’s what to look for:

F – Face. Weakness one side of the face
A – Arm. Weakness of an arm
S – Speech. Difficulty speaking
T – Time. Time to call 911 if any of these symptoms occur

Types of Stroke and How They Are Treated

Treatment for stroke can look different depending on the type of stroke and how much damage has occurred. There are three main types of stroke:

  • Ischemic. This is by far the most common type of stroke. It occurs when arteries that lead to the brain become blocked. Sometimes the blockages are caused by blood clots, called a thrombus.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA). This type of stroke is sometimes called a “mini-stroke” because blood flow to the brain is only impaired for a short amount of time — usually less than five minutes. TIAs still require immediate medical care and are typically a warning sign that another stroke will occur.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke. These are the deadliest, and thankfully most rare, type of stroke. They occur when an artery breaks and leaks blood into the brain. The blood puts too much pressure on the surrounding brain tissue and damages the brain cells.

Treatment

The Emory Stroke Center offers a full menu of options for stroke treatment. The treatment you receive is largely determined by the type of stroke you have.

  • Ischemic. If you’ve had an ischemic stroke, medicine to break up blood clots can be given if you’re seen within three hours of the event. Sometimes surgery to remove the blood clot (thrombectomy) may be needed.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA). With TIAs, blood flow will have already resumed by the time you get to the hospital. In these instances, your emergency physician will likely evaluate what caused your stroke and may prescribe medication to prevent future blood clots and/or perform a medical intervention to clear your affected arteries.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke. Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke focuses on stopping the bleeding and saving brain tissue. This might be achieved using medicine, surgery, or a combination of medical procedures.

Depending on the severity of your condition, you will likely need rehabilitation to recover after your stroke. Your doctor will also make healthy lifestyle recommendations to lessen your risk for another stroke in the future.

Preventing Strokes

Once you’ve had a stroke, your chances of another are significantly higher. It’s imperative to treat the underlying causes of stroke, including heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Lifestyle choices, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking, will also help lessen your risk for a future stroke.

Emory Stroke Center

At Emory Stroke Center, our team makes sure you get the right care at every stage of treatment — from the first stroke symptom through recovery. Emory Stroke Centers have dedicated stroke teams with fully equipped emergency departments for rapid diagnosis and treatment. Each emergency department has 24/7 neurology coverage and access to a multidisciplinary medical team to provide quality stroke care. Our stroke centers are located at Emory University Hospital, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Emory Decatur Hospital, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Learn more about Emory Stroke Center’s full-service stroke program at emoryhealthcare.org/stroke.

Emory Brain Health Center

The Emory Brain Health Center uniquely integrates neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, rehabilitation medicine, and sleep medicine, and transforms patient-centered care for brain and spinal cord conditions through research and discovery. Bringing these specialties together allows more than 400 researchers and clinicians from different areas to collaborate to predict, prevent, treat or cure devastating diseases and disorders of the brain more rapidly. These collaborations are demonstrated in numerous centers and programs across the Brain Health Center, including the Epilepsy Center, Pituitary Center, Stroke Center, Treatment-Resistant Depression Program, and Veterans Program.

Emory’s multidisciplinary approach is transforming the world’s understanding of the vast frontiers of the brain, harnessing imagination and discovery to address 21st century challenges.

Learn more about comprehensive, diagnostic and innovative treatment options at the Emory Brain Health Center.