newsletter is a product
of a VA research project
for Caregivers of Veterans
#SDP 06-327), funded by
the VA Health Services
Research & Development
Quality Enhancement Research
Initiative (QUERI). The
objective of the project
was to develop stroke and
caregiver related information
and materials for VA website.
The information for the
website was based on identified
gaps in currently available
information and formative
evaluation findings. Visit
the RESCUE website TODAY
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~~~ SPECIAL EDITION ~~~
National Stroke Awareness Month -
RAISING STROKE AWARENESS, AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
by Kristen Wing, RESCUE Project
A U.S. Army Veteran who suffered a stroke
As a member of the “Resources and Education for Stroke Caregivers’ Understanding and Empowerment” (or RESCUE) Project Team, May is always marked on my calendar as National Stroke Awareness Month. It is also a memorable month because my Dad, a U.S. Army Veteran, suffered a stroke in May of 1998. On that day, my family became one of the four out of five families in the United States that are affected by stroke, and my Mom became a stroke caregiver.
My Dad had suffered
a mild heart attack in March
of 1998. Several years earlier
he had been diagnosed with high
blood pressure and high cholesterol.
He loved steak, baked potatoes
covered in butter and sour cream,
and cookies with a big glass
of whole milk. He disliked exercise.
He had been a heavy smoker, and
at times, a heavy drinker. We
all knew that he was at risk
for a heart attack and had encouraged
him to make healthy changes,
but he was set in his ways and
wanted to “enjoy life.”
before he was scheduled for surgery
to clear a blocked blood vessel
in his heart, he and my Mom were
strolling the hospital hallways.
They were trying to take their
minds off of the next morning’s
procedure and the heart attack
that had led to it. That’s when
it hit—like most strokes do—out
of nowhere. “Time lost is brain
lost,” when it comes to a stroke.
Even though my Dad was in a hospital
and the doctors acted fast, his
stroke was severe and had serious
effects. My Dad survived the
stroke, but he was partially
paralyzed on one side of his
body and could not speak. After
he was released from the hospital,
he spent countless hours in physical
therapy and speech therapy. Over
time, he was able to walk again,
and speak again, and even drive
again—but he was never 100% of
where he had been before. He
could only walk short distances
and tired very quickly. Common
phrases like “Hi, how are you
doing?” eventually came out easily,
but he had difficulty with full
conversations. He suffered from
aphasia, which doesn’t affect
a person's intelligence, but
does make speaking hard. His
brain knew exactly what he wanted
to say but couldn’t put the right
words together to complete his
thoughts. His memory was affected
and he did not remember my wedding,
which had only been months before.
Because of his physical issues
and his problems communicating,
my Dad would become frustrated,
angry, and depressed. He knew
that his life would never be
As his caregiver,
my Mom shared my Dad’s frustration
and faced her own challenges.
Her life was also forever changed
by the stroke. She worked very
hard to help my Dad with his
stroke recovery and to deal with
the many changes in his life.
She tried to lift his spirits,
managed his medications, and
made sure that he got to his
many appointments. She served
as his advocate and his “voice” when
he could not say what he wanted
to doctors, therapists, family
members, and friends. Like many
caregivers, she had to balance
this new role with her full-time
job and other responsibilities.
my Dad’s stroke he learned
to adapt to his new life. He
never gave up and he kept trying
to get better. He improved his
diet and ate more healthy foods.
He exercised more, including
swimming and riding a three-wheeled
bike. He stopped smoking and
drinking alcohol. His blood
pressure came down and so did
his cholesterol levels. The
changes he made helped prevent
a second stroke, which can often
occur within the months or years
after a first stroke.
of 2003, my Dad volunteered
to be part of a research study
at the VA’s Brain Rehabilitation
Research Center (BRRC). The
BRRC, located in Gainesville,
Florida, was in the building
next to where I worked, so my
Dad lived with me and we drove
to “work” together that summer.
My Dad felt like his participation
in the study could somehow help
other Veteran stroke survivors.
I really enjoyed the time I
spent with him, and I gained
a new perspective and a deep
appreciation for my Mom as a
As time went
by, my Dad learned to focus on
things that he COULD do, and
not the things that he couldn’t.
He had always been great with
computers so he drew on those
skills to scan hundreds of photographs
and created a video history
of our family. He even got a
part-time job restocking shelves
during the holiday season. He
visited with other stroke survivors,
reaching out to them to offer
encouragement and hope.
and my Mom have been a great
inspiration and motivation for
my work on the RESCUE Project.
If my Dad was here today, I
believe that he would be pleased
by the RESCUE website. He would
see what a valuable resource
it is for stroke survivors and
their caregivers. He would have
recognized how helpful the RESCUE
website would have been for
my Mom when she became a stroke
caregiver. My Dad would also
wish that there wasn’t a need
for a RESCUE website. He would
want other Veterans to learn
from his experience, to be aware
of the risk factors for stroke,
and to take the steps to prevent
If you or someone
you know may be at risk for
stroke, please take the time
to learn about reducing stroke
risk and the life changes
that can be made to help prevent
a stroke. For more information,
visit the Prevention page
the RESCUE website at www.cidrr8.research.va.gov/rescue/prevention.
lost is brain lost!
can be as easy as S-T-R.
- S -
Ask the person to SMILE.
- T -
Ask the person to TALK or SPEAK
A SIMPLE SENTENCE (coherently). Example: “It
is sunny out today.
- R -
Ask the person to RAISE BOTH
RESCUE WEBSITE HAS LAUNCHED!
and Education for Stroke Caregivers’ Understanding
website is LIVE!
The site contains 44 fact sheets
of Veteran stroke survivors and
lots of helpful resources. The
fact sheets cover nine specific
topic areas and are available
in a printer-friendly version.
versions of the Fact Sheets will
be available on the website at
the end of May 2011.
Visit http://www.ciddr8.research.va.gov/rescue TODAY!
|STROKE PREVENTION - REDUCING RISK FACTORS
Stroke risk factors are behavioral or environmental (and include pre-existing conditions) which can increase the likelihood of a person experiencing stroke. The same risk factors that increase the chance of having a stroke for the first time also apply to having a second stroke. Though the significance of risk factors will vary from person to person, there are two general
categories of stroke risk factors: controllable and uncontrollable risk factors (see below).
High blood pressure
Carotid/other artery disease
Other heart disease
Sickle cell disease
High blood cholesterol
Prior cases/ conditions
Uncontrollable stroke risk factors, such as age or gender, cannot be changed. On the other hand, controllable risk factors can be changed, managed or treated to reduce the likelihood of having a stroke. Two major modifiable stroke risk factors, high-blood pressure and diabetes, are also risk factors for coronary heart disease and kidney disease. Below are some common things you can do to take control of your health and reduce your stroke risk.
Making healthy choices, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing sodium intake, is a great start to preventing a stroke. Eating a nutritious, balanced diet plays an important role in managing blood pressure, blood sugar and weight. Daily exercise is also important for overall health and stroke prevention. Regular exercise can help reduce stress, which in turn can help keep blood pressure regulated. Even if exercising is limited or difficult, modified exercises or other activities, such as gardening, can be done. Two lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk for stroke and many other health conditions are 1) quitting smoking, and 2) reducing alcohol consumption. Smoking reduces oxygen level and thickens blood, which increases the risk of stroke, and alcohol can raise blood pressure.
STROKE ASSOCIATION CELEBRATES NATIONAL
STROKE AWARENESS MONTH
Join the National
Stroke Association (www.stroke.org)
in celebrating National Stroke
Awareness Month, May 2011.
This is an important
time to educate the public about
important stroke information,
such as the warning signs of
stroke and stroke risk factors.
Did you know that research indicates
that up to 80 percent of strokes
might be prevented with prevention
measures like better risk factor
management? Learn more about
risk factors for stroke, and
if you are at risk, by visiting www.stroke.org/RISK.
factors for stroke include:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Alcohol Use
- Tobacco Use and Smoking
- Physical Inactivity
learn more about stroke or
find ideas for how to spread
awareness this May, and all
IMPORTANCE OF GETTING HELP
Stroke, or “brain
attack,” is among the leading
causes of death and disability
in the United States. According
to the American Heart Association,
approximately 780,000 individuals
experience a stroke each year.
It is estimated that a quarter
of stroke survivors will suffer
another stroke within five years
of the first one.
Stroke affects people of all ages, race, gender and socio-economic status.
Stroke happens very fast with little to no warning. Seeking medical attention
immediately can make the difference between life and death. Every
The RESCUE project has a fact sheet titled “About Stroke,” which
provides general stroke information in easy-to-understand language. This
fact sheet discusses the risk factors for stroke, ways to lower your risk
and the importance of seeking medical attention immediately. The section
below, from “About Stroke” lists the warning signs of a stroke.
If someone experiences one or more of the stroke warning signs listed below,
CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY! These changes may last or may start, briefly
subside, and then return.
• Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg (mainly on one side)
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance
• Sudden confusion or trouble talking or understanding speech
• Sudden bad headache with no known cause
the Warning: Stroke
Ahead quiz to
see if you can recognize the
warning signs of stroke: http://www.strokeassociation.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3070550
Department of Veterans
Affairs has launched
Caregiver Support Line
was created to recognize
the significant contributions
made by caregivers allowing
Veterans to remain at
home surrounded by family
and friends. Open Monday
through Friday 8:00 a.m.
to 11:00 p.m. and Saturday
10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Eastern Time; licensed
clinical social workers
will be available to
answer your questions,
listen to your concerns
and directly link you
to the Caregiver Support
Coordinator who can locate
assistance tailored to
your unique situation.
For more information,
Stroke Awareness Month Edition
stroke is also known as a “brain
• On average, every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke.
• Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United
• Each year, about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke.
• When considered separately from other cardiovascular diseases, stroke
ranks No. 3 among all causes of death, behind diseases of the heart and cancer.
• The estimated direct and indirect cost of stroke for 2010 is $73.7 billion.
• Of all strokes, 87% are ischemic (clots blocking an artery, keeping oxygen
and vital nutrients from the brain), and 13% are hemorrhagic (known as a “bleeding
stroke” where ruptured blood vessels bleed into the brain).
from AHA Heart Disease Stroke
Statistics: 2010 Update At-A-Glance
To download, visit: http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1265665152970DS-3241%20HeartStrokeUpdate_2010.pdf
to the American Stroke
Association (ASA), six
out of ten Americans don’t
know where the stroke-certified
hospitals are in their
To help remedy this, the ASA has created a new stroke web-mapping
site that can locate stroke-certified hospitals throughout
the United States.
find stroke care near
you, visit the
ASA’s stroke mapping Web site:
(MHV), the VA healthcare
provides an educational and health promotion
library of materials on certain health conditions to
enable veterans to take control of their own health. The
Health Education Library contains great information about
then click on the
+ Condition Centers.
You will find the Stroke section
with My HealtheVet
to receive access
to even more helpful health-related information and tools.
THE FOLLOWING EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS CAN BE DOWNLOADED
AT THIS WEB SITE:
|Educational materials available to download include:
- Information about cholesterol and how to control it
about high blood pressure (hypertension) and how to control it
reference of the warning signs of a stroke
- A stroke risk scorecard
- A stroke risk checklist
- Informational fact sheets about stroke
and how to prevent it
- Information on how to act F.A.S.T.
Links from This Issue
OF HYPERLINKS: The appearance
of external hyperlinks does
not constitute endorsement
by the Department of Veterans
Affairs or the RESCUE Project
of the linked web site, or
the information, products or
services offered by this site.
In addition, this site may
have privacy and security policies
that are inconsistent with
those of the Department of
Veterans Affairs. For other
than authorized VA activities,
the Department does not exercise
any editorial control over
the information you may find
at these locations. All links
are provided with the intent
of meeting the mission of the
Department of Veterans Affairs
and the RESCUE Newsletter and
forthcoming Web site. Please
let us know about existing
external links which you believe
Editorial Team: Kimberly Findley,
Kristen Wing, and Jini Hanjian. Graphic
Design by Lindsay Knauff and Kristen