Medical FAQs

Here at Bishopscourt we understand that there are many questions that one has in relation to what different ailments a person can suffer from as they grow old. As such we have featured as part of our website, a frequently asked questions on basic health and wellness for older people. Our website offers up-to-date information about healthy eating, diseases and conditions of ageing.

Eating well is vital for everyone at all ages. So daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and in how you look and feel. However as people get older, their bodies change. They can develop health problems or chronic diseases and may take more medications than they used to. Hopefully whatever questions you have will be answered sufficiently in the sections below.

Please click on question to find the answer

Nutritional

Diabetes

Dementia

Alzheimer's disease

Stroke

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD

Parkinson's Disease

Depression

Nutritional

How can eating well help me stay healthy?

Good nutrition is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Eating a well-planned, balanced mix of healthy foods every day may help prevent heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anaemia. If you already have one or more of these chronic diseases, eating well may help you better manage them. Healthy eating may also help you reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and manage diabetes. If you have a specific medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor a about foods you should include or avoid.

Healthy eating also gives you the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, some fats, and water Eating well helps keep up your energy level, too. By consuming enough calories -- a way to measure the energy you get from food -- you give your body the fuel it needs throughout the day.

What kinds of foods are the healthiest?

It's best to eat a mix of nutrient-dense foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories. Choose foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. At the same time, try to avoid "empty calories" foods and drinks that are high in calories but provide few or no nutrients. .

Plan your meals and snacks to include.

  • plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • plenty of grains, especially whole grains
  • low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products
  • lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • limited amounts of fats (saturated and trans fats should be as low as possible), cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

What kinds of fruits should I eat?

Eat a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits every day. Fruits contain lots of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other substances important for good health. Plus, they are low in fat and calories. To make sure you get the benefit of the natural fibre in fruits, you should eat most of your fruits whole rather than as juice. Fruits may be purchased fresh, canned, frozen, or dried and may be eaten whole, cut-up, or pureed. .

What kinds of vegetables should I eat?

Eat a variety of vegetables every day. Vegetables contain lots of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other substances important for good health. Plus, they are low in fat and calories. Aim for lots of colour on your plate as a way to get the widest variety possible each day. Broccoli, spinach, turnip and collard greens, and other dark leafy greens are good choices. You might also choose orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or winter squash. Vegetables may be purchased raw or cooked, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated. They may be eaten whole, cut-up, or mashed. .

What are whole-grain foods?

Whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, are made with the entire seed of a plant, including the bran, the germ. Together, they provide lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fat, carbohydrates, and fibre.

Whole grains are better sources of fibre and nutrients than refined grains, such as white flour or white rice. Refined grains have had both the bran and germ removed, and don't have as much fibre or as many nutrients. Most refined grains are enriched, with some B vitamins and iron added back in after processing. However, fibre is not replaced. .

What are the benefits of eating fruits, vegetables, and grains?

Fruits, vegetables, and grains offer important vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy. Most of these foods have little fat. They also have no cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are also a source of fibre, and eating more fibre may help with digestion and constipation and may lower cholesterol and blood sugar. .

Fruits, vegetables, and grains also contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells in the body from the damage caused by oxidation. They include vitamin C, vitamin E, and other substances. Antioxidants are thought to promote health and to possibly reduce the risk of certain cancers and other diseases. .

Colourful fruits and vegetables are the best dietary sources of antioxidants. Deeply and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, red bell peppers, and tomatoes, have the highest amounts of these healthy substances. Antioxidant supplements may not provide the same health benefits as foods. .

What are some sources of protein?

Protein helps build and maintain muscle, bones, and skin, and you should include some protein in your diet very day. Meats and poultry are sources of protein as well as B vitamins, iron, and zinc. When you are buying meats and poultry, choose lean cuts or low-fat products. They provide less total fat, less saturated fat, and fewer calories than products with more fat. .

What about milk products?

Low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products should be among the foods you choose every day. These products provide calcium and vitamin D to help maintain strong bones. They also provide protein, potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium. Low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt are good options.

If you don't drink milk, be sure to have other products that contain the nutrients that milk products provide. Some cereals and juices are fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D. Salmon, sardines, and tuna are sources of vitamin D. .

Other sources of calcium include foods such as hard cheese, yogurt, canned fish such as salmon and sardines.

Are some fats healthier than others?

Yes. Oils, such as olive oil are better for you than others. Choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats when possible. Sources of better fats include vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, olive, safflower, and sunflower oils. Polyunsaturated fat is also in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Walnuts, flaxseed and salmon are examples of foods with polyunsaturated fat. .

Which kinds of fat should I limit?

Limit the amount of saturated fats and trans fats you consume. Many convenience foods contain saturated or trans fats. Keep daily intake of trans fats as low as possible. .

Saturated fats are found in foods such as beef, cheese, milk, butter, oils, and ice cream and other frozen desserts. Trans fats are found in foods like margarine, crackers, icings, French fries, and microwave popcorn, as well as in many baked goods. Many sweets such as cakes, cookies, and doughnuts include saturated and/or trans fats. Read the Nutrition Facts label to choose products that are low in these fats. .

How can I lower the amount of fat in my diet?

Here are steps you can take to lower the fat in your diet. .

  • Choose lean cuts of meat, fish, or poultry (with the skin removed).
  • Trim off any extra fat before cooking.
  • Use low-fat or fat-free milk products and salad dressings.
  • Use non-stick pots and pans, and cook without added fat.
  • If you do use fat, use either an unsaturated vegetable oil or a nonfat cooking spray.
  • Broil, roast, bake, stir-fry, steam, microwave, or boil foods. Avoid frying them.
  • Season your foods with lemon juice, herbs, or spices instead of butter.

Should I limit the amount of cholesterol I consume?

Look for ways to limit the amount of cholesterol you consume. People with high levels of "bad," or LDL cholesterol in their blood are at high risk for heart disease. .

Cholesterol is only found in animal products so you don't need to worry about it being in fruits or vegetables unless butter, cheese, cream, or sauces and gravies made from meat or meat broths are added.

Talk with your doctor about getting your cholesterol checked. Also discuss ways to lower your cholesterol level and limit the cholesterol you consume, if needed.

Should I limit the amount of sodium I consume?

Sodium is consumed in the diet as part of salt. Older adults should limit their sodium intake about 2/3 of a teaspoon daily. This helps to keep your blood pressure under control and lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.

Ways to cut back on sodium include removing the salt from the table and replacing salt with herbs, spices, and low-sodium seasonings when you cook. When you shop, choose foods labeled "low sodium," "reduced sodium," "sodium free," or "unsalted." .

A diet rich in potassium can reduce the effects of salt on blood pressure. Sources of potassium include fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, greens, cooked dried beans, and tomato products. Potassium is also found in low-fat yogurt and milk, and in fish .

What about added sugars?

To help control your calorie intake, limit foods and beverages like sweets and fruit drinks that are high in added sugars and replace with alternatives like fruits, vegetables, and juices. Unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, or water are also good choices. Be aware that some products are low in fat but high in added sugars. .

Should I limit alcoholic beverages?

If you drink alcohol, limit the amount to 1 drink daily for women and 2 drinks daily for men. Alcoholic beverages give you calories but few nutrients. .

For safety reasons, avoid alcohol when you plan to drive a vehicle or use machinery. Also avoid alcohol when doing activities that require attention, skill, or coordination. People taking certain medicines and those with some medical conditions should not drink alcohol at all. Ask your doctor whether you can have an occasional drink if you want to. .

What can I do about constipation?

People often worry too much about having a bowel movement every day. There is no right number of daily or weekly bowel movements. Being regular is different for each person. For some people, it can mean bowel movements twice a day. For others, movements just three times a week may be normal.

Constipation is a symptom, not a disease. You may be constipated if you are having fewer bowel movements than usual and your stools are firm and hard to pass. Too little fibre or fluid can cause constipation. Some medicines can cause constipation, too sp if you're often constipated, ask your doctor for advice. Eating more foods that contain fibre like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains might help. Drinking plenty of fluids can also help prevent constipation.

Physical activity can help keep your bowel movements more regular, too. Use of bulk-forming products or occasional use of laxatives can also help.

Where can I learn more about eating well?

Healthy Eating pyramid

Healthy Eating pyramid reproduced with permission from - Australian Nutrition Foundation Inc.

Why do people lose interest in eating and cooking as they get older?

Some people lose interest in eating and cooking because their senses of taste and smell change with age. Foods a person once enjoyed might seem less flavourful as he or she gets older. Some medicines can change the sense of taste or make a person feel less hungry.

Problems with chewing, digestion, or gas can make an older person lose interest in eating. In addition, some older adults don't eat well because they find it hard to shop for food or cook. Others don't enjoy meals because they often eat alone. Not eating enough or avoiding some foods could mean that a person misses out on needed vitamins, minerals, fibre, or protein. Not eating enough could also mean that the person doesn't get enough calories. .

Go to the Top ↑

Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body cannot make or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps control the sugar, or glucose, in your blood. Glucose is the main source of fuel for your body. When you have diabetes, the levels of blood glucose are too high, causing symptoms such as blurred vision, frequent urination, increased thirst, unintended weight loss, slow healing sores, and feelings of hunger and tiredness. But some people with diabetes have no symptoms at all Diabetes is a serious disease. Over time, diabetes that is not well controlled causes serious damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart and blood vessels, gums, and teeth. .

How does diabetes occur?

Diabetes means your blood glucose (often called blood sugar) is too high. Diabetes is a disease that prevents the body from properly converting foods into the energy needed for daily activity. .

When you eat, your body changes most of the food into a form of sugar called glucose. Glucose travels through the blood stream to feed your cells. It is the main source of fuel for your body. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, a large organ behind the stomach. If your body does not make enough insulin or if the insulin doesn't work the way it should, glucose can't get into your cells. As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood increases, while the cells are starved of energy. The level of glucose in your blood then gets too high, causing diabetes. .

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes the cells of the pancreas no longer make any insulin because the body's immune system has attacked and destroyed them. Type 1 diabetes is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which the body does not use insulin properly. At first, the pancreas keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin. In time, however, it loses the ability to make enough insulin in response to meals. Being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and the most common in adults over 40. However, people can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. .

Who is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes?

Being over 45 years of age and overweight or obese are key risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors include.

  • having a first degree relative -- a parent, brother, or sister -- with diabetes
  • having gestational diabetes, or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • having blood pressure of 140/90 or higher, or having been told that you have high blood pressure.
  • having abnormal cholesterol levels -- an HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol level of 35 or lower, or a triglyceride level of 250 or higher
  • being inactive or exercising fewer than three times a week.
  • having polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS (women only) on previous testing, having impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
  • history of cardiovascular disease.

What are the signs of diabetes?

Many people have no signs or symptoms of diabetes. Signs can also be so mild that you might not notice them. The signs of diabetes are.

  • increased thirst
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • increased urination, especially at night
  • weight loss
  • blurred vision
  • sores that do not heal.

What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke If you have pre-diabetes, you can reduce your risk of getting diabetes. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes and even return to normal glucose levels. .

Can diabetes be prevented?

Yes, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in people who are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetesm Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed if you lose a small amount of weight by following a low calorie, low-fat meal plan and engage in moderate physical activity. .

Why does being overweight or obese put me at risk for developing diabetes?

Your weight affects your health in many ways. Being overweight can keep your body from making and using insulin properly. It can also cause high blood pressure. Overweight people are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as people who are not overweight. You can reduce your risk of developing this type of diabetes by losing weight and by increasing your physical activity. .

What steps can I take to lose weight to prevent type 2 diabetes?

If you are overweight or obese, choose sensible ways to prevent or delay the disease: .

  • Avoid crash diets. Instead, eat foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar and high in fibre, such as dried beans and peas, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Increase your physical activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program.
  • Set a reasonable weight-loss goal, such as losing 1 pound a week. Aim for a goal of losing 5 to 7 percent of your total body weight.

When should I be tested for diabetes?

Anyone 45 years old or older should consider getting tested for diabetes. If you are 45 or older and you are overweight, it is strongly recommended that you get tested. If you are younger than 45, you should consider testing if you are overweight and have one or more of the other risk factors for diabetes. Finding out early if you have diabetes is important because treatment can prevent or delay the complications of the disease.

If your blood glucose is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range, you have a condition called pre-diabetes. Have your blood glucose checked again in 1 to 2 years. If you have pre-diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. Making lifestyle changes can help you delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. .

How do I take care of my diabetes every day?

People with diabetes must take learn to take care of their diabetes every day. Much of the daily care involves keeping blood glucose levels in a target range that is right for you. Ask your doctor what your target levels should be. .

People with diabetes should do four things every day to lower high blood glucose. .

  • Follow your meal plan.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Take your diabetes medicine.
  • Check your blood glucose.

Your Diabetic Clinic Team with your doctor will help you learn how to reach your target blood glucose range.

What kind of meal plan should a person with diabetes follow?

People with diabetes should have their own meal plan. Making healthy food choices is very important to help keep your blood glucose level under control. Ask your doctor to give you the name of a dietitian or a diabetes educator who can work with you to develop a meal plan. .

In designing a meal plan for you, a dietitian will consider several things, including your weight and daily physical activity, blood glucose levels, and medications. If you are overweight, a plan to help you achieve a weight that is right for you will help control your blood glucose. Your dietitian can help you plan meals to include foods that you and your family like to eat and that are good for you. People with diabetes don't need to eat special foods. The foods that are on your meal plan are good for everyone in your family. Try to eat foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar and high in fibre, such as beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Making healthy food choices will help you reach and stay at a weight that's good for your body, keep your blood glucose in a desirable range, and prevent heart and blood vessel disease. .

If I have diabetes, should I avoid all sweets and sugars?

If you have diabetes you should limit the amount of fats and sweets you eat. These foods have calories, but not much nutrition. Some contain saturated fats and cholesterol that increase your risk of heart disease. Limiting these foods will help you lose weight and keep your blood glucose and blood fats under control. .

How important is exercise in controlling diabetes?

Exercise is very important for people with diabetes. Taking part in a regular fitness program has been shown to improve blood glucose levels in older people whose levels are high. Exercise is especially good for people with diabetes because.

  • exercise helps keep weight down
  • exercise helps insulin work better to lower blood glucose
  • exercise is good for your heart and lungs
  • exercise gives you more energy.

What types of exercise should I do?

Talk to your doctor before you begin exercise. Your doctor may check your heart and your feet to be sure you have no special problems. If you have high blood pressure or eye problems, some exercises may not be safe. Your health care team can help you find safe exercises.

Walking, swimming, dancing, riding a bicycle, playing baseball, and bowling are all good ways to exercise. You can even get exercise when you clean house or work in your garden. Try to exercise almost every day for a total of about 30 minutes. If you haven't exercised lately, begin slowly. Start with 5 to 10 minutes, and then add more time. Or exercise for 10 minutes, three times a day. .

What kinds of medication do people take for diabetes?

Controlling blood glucose is the best defence against the serious complications of diabetes. Insulin and diabetes tablets are the two kinds of medicines used to lower blood glucose. .

You need insulin if your body has stopped making insulin or if it doesn't make enough. Everyone with type 1 diabetes needs insulin, and many people with type 2 diabetes do, too. If your body makes insulin but the insulin doesn't lower your blood glucose, you may need diabetes tablets. .

How are insulin and diabetes pills taken?

Insulin is taken every day by injection or using an insulin pump. .

Go to the Top ↑

Dementia

What is dementia?

Dementia is a loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills that interferes with a person's daily life and activities. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Other causes of dementia include blood-vessel disease in the brain (called vascular dementia), Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body disease.

What is mild cognitive impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is a condition in which people have more memory problems than normal for their age, but their symptoms are not as severe as in Alzheimer's disease. They are able to carry out their normal daily activities. They usually do not have

Alzheimer's symptoms like confusion, attention problems, and difficulty with language. .

People with MCI are more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer's disease than are people without MCI. .

Go to the Top ↑

Alzheimer's disease

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Memory problems are one of the first signs of Alzheimer's. People may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. Over time, symptoms get worse, and problems can include getting lost, repeating questions, and taking longer than normal to finish daily tasks. As the disease progresses, people may have trouble learning new things, recognizing family and friends, and communicating. Eventually, they need total care. .

If a family member has Alzheimer's disease, will I get it, too?

Just because a family member has Alzheimer's disease does not mean that you will get it, too. However, genetic factors appear to increase a person's risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's. .

Is there anything I can do to prevent Alzheimer's disease?

Currently, there are no treatments, or drugs, that can prevent Alzheimer's disease, but people can take some steps that may reduce their risk. These steps include.

  • lowering high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels
  • controlling diabetes
  • being physically active
  • eating a healthy diet
  • engaging in activities that stimulate the mind.

What is typically the first sign of Alzheimer's disease?

The first sign of Alzheimer's disease typically is mild forgetfulness. People with mild Alzheimer's may have trouble remembering recent events or take longer than before to finish a task. Simple math problems may become hard to solve. A person may seem healthy but is actually having more and more trouble making sense of the world around him or her. Such difficulties could be due to Alzheimer's disease or another condition. A doctor should be consulted to make a diagnosis. .

Is misplacing your keys a normal part of aging or a symptom of Alzheimer's disease?

Misplacing your keys could be a normal part of aging. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don't remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their keys. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems. .

Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, can make a person more forgetful and may be mistaken for dementia. Some health issues, such as medication side effects, vitamin B12 deficiency, chronic alcoholism, tumours, and blood clots in the brain, can cause memory loss or possibly dementia. A doctor should treat medical conditions like these as soon as possible. .

Memory loss that is associated with Alzheimer's disease or dementia is severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living. Symptoms may include being unable to remember events, asking the same question over and over, becoming lost in familiar places, and being unable to follow directions. People who are worried about their memory problems should see a doctor. .

How is Alzheimer's disease diagnosed?

Doctors use several tools to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. .

  • a complete medical history with questions about the person's general health, past medical problems, family health, and any difficulties carrying out daily activities
  • medical tests, such as tests of blood, urine or spinal fluid
  • tests to measure memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language skills
  • brain scans that allow the doctor to look at a picture of the brain to see if anything does not look normal

How long do people live after getting diagnosed with Alzheimer's?

The time from diagnosis of Alzheimer's to the end of life varies. It can be as little as 3 years if the person is over 80 years old when diagnosed, or as long as 10 years or more if the person is younger. .

What are the stages in the development of Alzheimer's disease?

The course of Alzheimer's disease -- which symptoms appear and how quickly changes occur -- varies from person to person. In general, though, the disease develops slowly and follows the same mild, moderate, and severe stages. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. People with mild Alzheimer's may be unable to remember recent events, ask the same question over and over, and become lost in familiar places. A person may seem healthy but is actually having more and more trouble making sense of the world around him or her. Such difficulties could be due to Alzheimer's disease or another condition. A doctor should be consulted to make a diagnosis. .

As the disease goes on, memory gets worse. People may have problems recognizing family and friends. It can be hard to learn new things. People in this moderate stage of Alzheimer's may behave differently, too. For example, they might be restless, agitated, or angry, or they may wander. As Alzheimer's disease becomes more severe, people lose the ability to communicate. They may sleep more, lose weight, and have trouble swallowing. Often they cannot control their bladder and bowel. Eventually, they need total care. .

Are there any drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease?

No treatment can stop Alzheimer's disease. However, drugs are used to treat symptoms of the disease. They may help maintain thinking, memory, and speaking skills and help with some behavioral problems for a limited time. These drugs work by regulating certain chemicals in the brain.

Can eating certain foods prevent Alzheimer's disease?

Some recent studies suggest that how we eat may be linked to our risk of developing or not developing Alzheimer's disease. This style of eating includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, a fair amount of fish, some meat and poultry, small amounts of sugar and dairy products, plus olive oil and red wine. .

Can crossword puzzles and other "brain games" prevent Alzheimer's?

Observational studies have shown that keeping the brain active may be associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers have found that mentally stimulating activities like reading newspapers, playing games, and visiting museums help keep your brain sharp. .

Go to the Top ↑

Stroke

What is stroke?

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops because it is blocked by a clot. Some brain cells die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. Other brain cells die because they are damaged by sudden bleeding into or around the brain. .

The brain cells that don't die immediately remain at risk for death. These cells can linger in a compromised or weakened state for several hours. With timely treatment these cells can be saved. Knowing stroke symptoms, and calling 999 immediately, and getting to a hospital as quickly as possible are critical.(FACE) .

Who gets stroke?

Stroke occurs in all age groups, in both sexes, and in all races in every country. Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. And the risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55. .

What are the different kinds of stroke?

There are two kinds of stroke. The most common kind of stroke is called ischemic stroke. It accounts for approximately 80 percent of all strokes. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. .

The other kind of stroke is called hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. .

What disabilities can result from stroke?

Stroke damage in the brain can affect the entire body -- resulting in mild to severe disabilities. These include pa.

ralysis, problems with thinking, problems with speaking, emotional problems, and pain.

What are the warning signs of stroke?

Warning signs are clues your body sends to tell you that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. These are warning signs of a stroke, or brain attack: .

  • sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Warning signs of a stroke:

  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you observe one or more of these signs, don't wait. Call a doctor or 999 right away!

What is a transient ischemic attack, or TIA?

Transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, occur when the warning signs of stroke last only a few moments and then disappear. These brief episodes are also sometimes called "mini-strokes." Although brief, they identify an underlying serious condition that isn't going away without medical help.

What are the risk factors for stroke?

The risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, and heart disease. Experiencing warning signs and having a history of stroke are also risk factors for stroke. .

What is artherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, is the most common blood vessel disease. It is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, and is a risk factor for stroke. .

Is stroke preventable?

Yes. Stroke is preventable. A better understanding of the causes of stroke has helped people make lifestyle changes that have cut the stroke death rate nearly in half in the last two decades. .

While family history of stroke plays a role in your risk, there are many risk factors you can control:

  • If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to get it under control. Managing your high blood pressure is the most important thing you can do to avoid stroke.
  • If you smoke, quit.

Risk factors you can control:

  • If you have diabetes, learn how to manage it. Many people do not realize they have diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • If you are overweight, start maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  • If you have high cholesterol, work with your doctor to lower it. A high level of total cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for heart disease, which raises your risk of stroke.

How is stroke diagnosed?

Doctors have several techniques and imaging tools to help diagnose stroke quickly and accurately. The first step in diagnosis is a short neurological examination, or an evaluation of the nervous system. .

When a possible stroke patient arrives at a hospital, a health care professional, usually a doctor or nurse, will ask the patient or a companion what happened and when the symptoms began. Blood tests, an electrocardiogram, and a brain scan such as computed tomography or CT, or magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, will often be done. MRI and CT are equally accurate for determining when hemorrhage is present. .

What are the treatments for stroke?

With stroke, treatment depends on the stage of the disease. There are three treatment stages for stroke: prevention, treatment immediately after stroke, and rehabilitation after stroke. Stroke treatments include medications, surgery, and rehabilitation.

What other medications are used to treat stroke?

Medication or drug therapy is the most common treatment for stroke and doctors prescribe different drugs to reduce the risk of stroke by reducing the clotting property of the blood. .

What kinds of therapies are available to help rehabilitate patients after stroke?

For most stroke patients, rehabilitation mainly involves physical therapy. The aim of physical therapy is to have the stroke patient relearn simple motor activities such as walking, sitting, standing, lying down, and the process of switching from one type of movement to another. .

Another type of therapy to help patients relearn daily activities is occupational therapy. This type of therapy also involves exercise and training. Its goal is to help the stroke patient relearn everyday activities such as eating, drinking and swallowing, dressing, bathing, cooking, reading and writing, and toileting. .

Speech therapy helps stroke patients relearn language and speaking skills, or learn other forms of communication. It is appropriate for patients who have no deficits in cognition or thinking, but have problems understanding speech or written words, or problems forming speech.

Talk therapy, along with the right medication, can help ease some of the mental and emotional problems that result from stroke. .

Go to the Top ↑

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a progressive lung disease in which the airways of the lungs become damaged, making it harder to breathe. With COPD, airways become blocked, making it harder to get air in and out. .

Can COPD cause someone to die?

COPD is a disease that slowly worsens over time, especially if you continue to smoke. If you have COPD, you are more likely to have lung infections, which can be fatal. If the lungs are severely damaged, the heart may be affected. .

A person with COPD dies when the lungs and heart are unable to function and get oxygen to the body's organs and tissues, or when a complication, such as a severe infection, occurs. Treatment for COPD may help prevent complications, prolong life, and improve a person's quality of life. .

What causes COPD?

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Most people with COPD are smokers or have been smokers in the past. Breathing in other fumes and dusts over long periods of time can also lead to COPD. Most people with COPD are at least 40 years old or around middle age when symptoms start.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

The most common symptoms of COPD are a cough that does not go away and coughing up a lot of sputum. These symptoms may occur years before lung damage has reduced the flow of air in and out of the lungs. Other symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, especially with exercise; wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe; and tightness in the chest.

How is COPD diagnosed?

To confirm a COPD diagnosis, a doctor will use a breathing test called spirometry. The test is easy and painless. It shows how well the lungs are working. .

The spirometer measures how much air the lungs can hold and how fast air is blown out of the lungs. Other tests, such as bronchodilator reversibility testing, a chest X-ray, and arterial blood gas test, may be ordered.

What are the treatments for COPD?

Treatment for COPD can be different for each person and is based on whether symptoms are mild, moderate or severe. Treatments include medication, pulmonary or lung rehabilitation, oxygen treatment, and surgery. There are also treatments to manage complications or a sudden onset of symptoms. .

If I am diagnosed with COPD, will I be able to go walking and go to my exercise class?

If you have not been exercising regularly, you should get the advice of your doctor before starting. The symptoms of COPD are different for each person. People with mild COPD may not have much difficulty walking or exercising. As the symptoms of COPD get worse over time, a person may have more difficulty with walking and exercising. You should talk to your doctor about exercising and whether you would benefit from a pulmonary or lung rehabilitation program. .

My doctor is sending me for chest rehabilitation. What type of people will I be working with and what do they do?

The chest rehabilitation team is a group of health care professionals who work together with the patient and his/her own doctor to develop and monitor rehabilitation programs for patients with chronic lung diseases. Each member brings to the team expertise from his or her own area of specialty.

Teams can include a doctor, a nurse, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, and a dietitian.

A doctor with a special interest in working with patients with lung problems usually leads the team. A nurse with special training in lung problems can help evaluate patients, develop the treatment plan, and make sure the program works for the patient and that the goals of the program are being met. A physiotherapist may help teach breathing techniques and proper use of equipment such as nebulizers and oxygen. An occupational therapist can teach easier ways of doing everyday activities such as dressing. A dietitian can work with persons with chronic lung diseases to make sure they are getting enough nutrition in their diets. .

How can I prevent my COPD from getting worse?

If you smoke, the most important thing you can do to prevent more lung damage is to stop smoking. It is also important to stay away from people who smoke and places where you know there will be smokers. Following your doctor's instructions with medications and rehabilitative treatment can help alleviate COPD symptoms and control the disabling effects of the disease. .

What medications are used to treat COPD?

Bronchodilators and inhaled steroids are two medications used to treat COPD. Bronchodilators work by relaxing the muscles around the airways, opening them and making it easier to breathe. People with mild COPD take bronchodilators using an inhaler only when needed. Those with moderate or severe COPD may need more regular treatment. Inhaled steroids also are used for people with moderate or severe COPD in order to reduce swelling in the airways. .

When is oxygen therapy used for COPD?

For people with severe COPD and low levels of oxygen in the blood, doctors may recommend oxygen therapy to help with shortness of breath. Using extra oxygen more than 15 hours per day can help you perform tasks or activities with less shortness of breath, protect the heart and other organs from damage, help you sleep more, improve your alertness during the day, and help you live longer. .

What should I do if my symptoms suddenly get worse?

People with COPD often have symptoms that suddenly get worse. When this happens, you have a much harder time catching your breath. You should call your doctor if you have sudden chest tightness, more coughing, a change in your sputum, or fever. Your doctor will look at things that may be causing these sudden symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms are caused by a lung infection.

Go to the Top ↑

Parkinson's Disease

What Is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that results from degeneration of neurons (nerve cells) in a region of the brain that controls movement. This degeneration creates a shortage of the brain-signaling chemical (neurotransmitter) known as dopamine, causing the impaired movements that characterize the disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?

Often, the first symptom of Parkinson's disease is tremor (trembling or shaking) of a limb, especially when the body is at rest. The tremor often begins on one side of the body, frequently in one hand. Other common symptoms include slow movement (bradykinesia), an inability to move (akinesia), rigid limbs, a shuffling gait, and a stooped posture. People with Parkinson's disease often show reduced facial expressions and speak in a soft voice. Occasionally, the disease also causes depression, personality changes, dementia, sleep disturbances, speech impairments, or sexual difficulties. The severity of Parkinson's symptoms tends to worsen over time.

How Many People Are Affected?

The average age of onset is about 60. Both prevalence and incidence increase with advancing age; the rates are very low in people under 40 and rise among people in their 70s and 80s. Parkinson's disease is found all over the world. The rates vary from country to country, but it is not clear whether this reflects true ethnic and/or geographic differences or discrepancies in data collection. .

How Is Parkinson's Disease Diagnosed?

Parkinson's disease is usually diagnosed by a neurologist who can evaluate symptoms and their severity. There is no test that can clearly identify the disease. Sometimes people with suspected Parkinson's disease are given anti-Parkinson's drugs to see if they respond. Other tests, such as brain scans, can help doctors decide if a patient has true Parkinson's disease or some other disorder that resembles it. .

What Treatments Are Available for Parkinson's Disease?

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease. Many patients are only mildly affected and need no treatment for several years after the initial diagnosis. When symptoms grow severe, doctors usually prescribe medication, which helps replace the brain's dopamine. Sometimes doctors prescribe other drugs that affect dopamine levels in the brain. Anticholinergics may help control tremor and rigidity. .

Go to the Top ↑

Depression

What is depression?

Depression is more than just feeling blue or sad. It is an illness. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and normal functioning, and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. .

What are the different types of depression?

Major depressive disorder, also called major depression or clinical depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy activities you once liked. Major depression keeps a person from functioning normally. .

How do I know if I am at risk for depression?

The risk factors for depression are family history, life experiences, and environment. If you have depression, you may have experienced it when you were younger, and may have a family history of the illness. You may also be going through difficult life events, such as physical or psychological trauma, losing a loved one, a difficult relationship with a family member or friend, or financial troubles. Any of these stressful experiences can lead to depression. you experience depression for the first time later in life, other factors may be at play. Depression may be related to changes that occur in the brain and body as we age. For example, some older adults may suffer from restricted blood flow, a condition called ischemia. Over time, blood vessels harden and prevent blood from flowing normally to the body's organs, including the brain. If this occurs, an older adult with no family history of depression may develop what some doctors call "vascular depression." .

What are the symptoms of depression?

Symptoms of depression often vary depending on the person. Common symptoms include: .

  • feeling nervous or emotionally empty
  • tiredness or a "slowed down" feeling
  • feeling guilty or worthless
  • restlessness and irritability
  • feeling like life is not worth living
  • sleep problems such as insomnia, oversleeping or wakefulness in the middle of the night; eating more or less than usual
  • having persistent headaches, stomach-aches or other chronic pain that does not go away when treated
  • loss of interest in once pleasurable activities
  • frequent crying
  • difficulty focusing, remembering or making decisions
  • thoughts of death or suicide

What should I do if I think I am depressed?

First, visit a doctor. Talk to him or her about your symptoms, discuss any medications you are taking, and discuss any other medical conditions you may have. Certain medications taken for other medical conditions, a vitamin B12 deficiency, some viruses, or a thyroid disorder can cause the same symptoms as depression doctor should give you a complete physical exam and do any lab tests to rule out the possibility that medications or another medical condition are causing your depression. If these can be ruled out, he or she may refer you to a mental health team. .

Is depression treatable?

Yes. Even the most severe cases of depression are highly treatable. As with many illnesses, getting treatment early is more effective and reduces the chance of recurrence. If you have other medical conditions, it is especially important to treat depression because having depression may delay recovery from or worsen the outcome of other illnesses.

Treatment choices differ for each person, and sometimes different treatments must be tried until one works for you. It is important not to give up. The most common forms of treatment for depression are medication and psychotherapy.

How effective is treatment for depression?

Up to 80 percent of older adults who are treated with an antidepressant, psychotherapy, or a combination of both find relief from depression. Treating depression also helps improve the outcomes of any co-occurring illnesses. .

Go to the Top ↑