Prepare for a stroke or take action to prevent one?
“If you experience any neurological symptom that comes on suddenly and is unfamiliar (eg not like your normal migraine) then you should seek urgent medical advice. And take an Aspirin (unless you’re allergic to it).” That’s the advice today from Dr Mark Porter, writing in The Times about what to do in the event you think you’re suffering a stroke.
It’s good advice to keep a packet in your medicine cabinet, but did you know that it’s thought 91% of strokes are avoidable?
What is a stroke?
For the brain to function properly, it needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by the blood. Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or, more commonly, when a blockage develops which leaves the supply of the blood to the brain limited or completely obstructed and without treatment, cells in the brain quickly begin to die.
There are 3 different types of stroke:
- Ischaemic Stroke
- Haemorrhagic Stroke
- Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)
Avoidable risk factors
Research was carried out by McMaster University Canada – it compared the lifestyles of people who had a stroke with those who had not, involving nearly 27,000 participants from 32 countries. It found that 9 out of 10 strokes worldwide could be caused by risk factors – many of which can be avoided:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Eating healthily
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Preventing diabetes
- Lowering cholesterol
- Cutting down on alcohol
- Stopping smoking
- Lowering stress
- Taking preventive medication for any heart arrhythmia
The most important modifiable risk is high blood pressure, increasing the risk by 47.9%, which is why it’s the key target across the world for reducing strokes.
Randox Health can help
Randox Health clinics offer you personalised preventive health programmes that provide a full profile of your entire body’s health, including diabetes health, lung health, liver health, heart health and many more areas. Upon receiving your results, you are given a programme to follow to help improve any areas of your health which are not ‘in the green’ on our scale. This helps you to prevent future illnesses and any unwanted surprises such as a stroke. We’ve helped over 3000 people in our clinics to date – book your test today.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance also known as a lipid. It is made by the liver but can also be found in some foods. It is essential to let the body function normally. You will be sad to hear that high levels can increase your risk of serious health conditions. There are two main types; high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL is known as good cholesterol. It carries cholesterol back to the liver, where it is broken down. LDL on the other hand carries cholesterol to the cells however if there is a surplus it can build up in the artery walls increasing the chances of a heart attack or stroke occurring.
Here are some scary facts about cholesterol…
- You can’t live without it – Cholesterol has been in your body since the day you were born. It is a building block for all cells. Not only that but all of our cells and hormones need it to function properly…unfortunately you are very unlikely to find good cholesterol in your typical trick-or-treat offerings.
- Not all patients on cholesterol-lowering medication respond optimally to it – In the recent past, aspirin (a drug used to reduce levels) was prescribed for people who had a perceived risk of a heart attack. However aspirin does not always work; up to 30% of patients could have a below optimum response to the drug and therefore be at a considerably increased risk of a recurrent cardiovascular event. This is may also be referred to as “aspirin resistance”.
- One third of adults have high cholesterol – Testing is advised every 5 years to monitor your levels to see any changes. To get the most accurate results tests should be carried out one week apart, however most testing facilities won’t follow this.
- High levels could be down to genetics – Diet you can change, genes you can’t! If your family has a history of high cholesterol then you are likely to have it as well. It has been suggested that 75% of cholesterol is due to genetics and the remaining 25% is down to diet and lifestyle choices.
- Women’s levels will fluctuate over their lifespan – Did you know that ladies? During the average woman’s lifespan, cholesterol levels will rise and fall due to pregnancy and menopause. During pregnancy levels will rise in order to help the baby develop. After birth the mother’s levels should return to normal however after menopause a woman’s LDL levels will rise to that higher of a man’s.
However it is not all doom and gloom this Halloween! Randox are here to treat you to a vast range of specialised blood tests to allow the most accurate diagnosis of cholesterol levels, allowing you to gauge how many sweets you can sneak in this Halloween! We offer a large array of routine and niche tests. The most popular and widely tested are HDL, LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides. Some further risk assessment cholesterol tests which are not routinely run include sLDL, HDL3, Lp(a). These cholesterol biomarkers are also affected by the usual risk factors such as age, weight, smoking, etc.; however they can also be a result of one’s genes. As mentioned before aspirin resistance is a big problem affecting up to 30% of all patients on aspirin therapy. However Randox offer the TxBCardio™ test which is a unique test to diagnose and assess the effectiveness of aspirin therapy.
From all of us here at Randox we wish you a safe and happy Halloween!
For health professionals
Randox Laboratories manufacture a wide range of routine and niche biochemistry reagents suitable for both research and clinical use. These include a wide variety of automated routine and niche cardiac tests and our new HDL3-C assay. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
- Millions prescribed aspirin to combat blood clotting – but it doesn’t work for 25% of patients
- Those who test positive at ‘significantly’ increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Countless lives could be saved by new £10 Urine test created by Randox to identify aspirin resistant patients
An aspirin a day may not necessarily keep the doctor away, especially if you are among the 1-in 4 people in Britain resistant to the beneficial effects of the ‘wonder drug.
A small dose of aspirin is taken by millions across Britain and around the world to thin the blood, in an attempt to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but major clinical studies have shown that for 1-in-4 aspirin is ineffective. Validated research has also revealed that the risk of having a heart attack and indeed dying from a cardiovascular event is significantly higher in aspirin resistant patients.
NOT A SILVER BULLET
One of the powerful effects of aspirin is that it inhibits the production of a blood clotting chemical called thromboxane, and as such, it is widely prescribed for the prevention of cardio vascular disease; however the blood thinning properties of aspirin do not work for everybody. In aspirin resistant patients, blood thinning is poor, therefore there is a greater likelihood of clots forming in arteries which are narrowed by fatty and fibrous plaques resulting in heart attack and stroke.
Responding to the problem, scientists at UK Biotechnology Company Randox have developed a new test for aspirin resistance, as Managing Director Dr Peter FitzGerald explains:
“We are faced with the fact that thousands of patients are at increased risk because they are not getting the benefits from their aspirin treatment. Some people have genetic resistance to aspirin, but high cholesterol, diabetes and pre-diabetes (affecting an estimated 1-in-3 people In England) may significantly contribute to the poor aspirin response. Aspirin effectiveness can also be reduced by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. To make sure these patients get the right treatment, we have developed a simple, £10 urine test, which can detect if a person is responding to their daily aspirin therapy.”
Dr Paul RJ Ames, Consultant in Haemostasis & Thrombosis at St George’s Hospital, London, who has been working with the new test, believes it could have a significant impact on the health of hundreds of thousands of patients in the UK and is calling for doctors to take aspirin resistance seriously:
“Doctors need to realise that aspirin, the cornerstone of much cardiac therapy is not working for up to 25% of those taking it! Then there are the side effects such as ulcers to consider. Why should you continue to take something that actually isn’t doing any good?! It is also worrying that aspirin resistant patients are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack and almost four times more likely to suffer cardiovascular death than those who are responsive. This increased risk has been clinically validated in internationally recognised research and frontline care must take this knowledge into account. We need to begin testing for aspirin resistance, so that we can identify patients who need alternative treatments, ultimately reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke.”
INCREASED RISK OF DEATH
A ‘meta-analysis’ (summary of 20 studies) published in the British Medical Journal, tracked almost 3000 patients with cardiovascular disease. They were tested and 28% (810 patients) were found to be aspirin resistant. The researchers discovered that 41% of the aspirin resistant patients had a CVD related event, 39.4% of them experienced Acute Coronary Syndrome and 5.7% died. The study concluded that aspirin resistant patients are at a much greater risk of serious cardiovascular disease compared to patients who are sensitive to aspirin.
Meanwhile a major Canadian research project which studied 976 aspirin treated patients, found that those who were aspirin resistant were twice as likely to have a heart attack, and worryingly, almost 4 times at greater risk of cardiovascular death.
According to the British Heart Foundation, there are more than a quarter of a million heart attacks and strokes in the UK each year, it is not yet known how many of these were suffered by aspirin resistant patients, but it is evident that aspirin, the basis of treatment for millions at cardiovascular risk, is not a one-pill-wonder.
For the first time, a test is available which can rapidly and accurately identify aspirin resistance, a breakthrough in individual patient management; with the potential to revolutionise health care for those with cardiovascular risk.