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    What do you really know about strokes?

    Stroke is the third most common cause of death and the leading cause of disability in South Africa. Since the chances are high that someone close to you will have a stroke one day, it’s a good idea to be equipped so you can recognise and support their needs if necessary.


    What is a stroke?

    A stroke is caused when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This could be because there is a lack of blood flow (ischaemia) or leakage of blood (haemorrhage) in the brain. Brain cells need a constant supply of oxygen and glucose from the bloodstream in order to function properly. Without these, the body may not be able to perform many key functions, which is why stroke victims will often experience a loss of movement, perception, speech and even consciousness.


    What types of strokes are there?

    Strokes are classified into two major categories: the more common ischaemic strokes, which are caused by interruption of the blood supply to the brain, and haemorrhagic strokes, caused by ruptures of a blood vessel or when someone has an abnormal vascular structure.

    Did you know? Around 240 strokes occur every day in South Africa.


    What is a “mini stroke”?

    A “mini stroke” or Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) resembles a stroke, but symptoms disappear within 24 hours. A TIA should be regarded as a warning to seek medical help to prevent a full-blown stroke (which may be fatal or disabling) in the future.

    The effects will vary, depending on which area of the brain has been affected and the size of the area that has been damaged. A stroke on the left side of the brain affects the right side of the body and one on the right side of the brain affects the left side of the body.


    Possible physical effects of a stroke:

    • Paralysis of one or both sides of the body
    • Problems with vision
    • Speech or language problems – difficulty speaking, reading, writing or understanding speech
    • Memory problems
    • Difficulty swallowing or eating
    • Depression or emotional issues
    • Incontinence (trouble controlling the bowels or bladder)


    Risk factors

    There are many risk factors associated with strokes (many of which can be controlled or avoided). Here are some common risk factors:

    • Being overweight
    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Lack of exercise
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Drug abuse
    • Malformed arteries
    • Hardening of the arteries
    • Aneurysms (abnormal widening of part of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the artery)


    How to recognise a stroke

    The physical symptoms happen quickly and often occur on one side of the body. Some warning signs are a sudden:

    • numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
    • tingling sensation in the affected area
    • difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
    • trouble walking, or with balance or coordination
    • severe headache with no other known cause
    • difficulty speaking or communicating
    • difficulty thinking or understanding things clearly


    Prevention through tests and screenings

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa encourages all South Africans to “know their numbers”, as early detection is essential to help reduce the risk of a stroke. This means going to a medical professional to measure your:

    • Blood pressure
    • Cholesterol
    • Blood glucose
    • Body mass index (BMI)



    Source: Discovery



    Winter beef pie: Perfect for Sunday afternoon!

    Winter comfort food at its best! On an icy Sunday afternoon you will find nothing that beats this comfort pie.
    1 kg stewing or braising beef
    1 packet mushrooms
    3 big carrots
    Instant6 soup (Hearty Beef)
    1 teaspoon coriander powder
    1 teaspoon cumin powder
    Coarse salt and pepper
    2 big onions
    1 cube beef stock
    1 teaspoon dried herbs
    4 sticks cut, fresh rosemary
    1 litre boiling water
    4 cloves of garlic
    2 celery sticks
    2 packets puff pastry

    Cut the beef and onions into strips, together with the mushrooms, carrots, garlic and celery. Put the onions in a big pastry pot and fry in oil until it begins to turn translucent. Add the beef strips and fry until the meat is done. Turn the plate down so that there is only enough heat for simmering. Add the instant soup together with 1 litre of water from the kettle, and stir through until soft bubbles begin to form. Now add the carrots, mushrooms, coriander, cumin, cube of beef stock, garlic, celery and rosemary. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for 2 hours. Take a peep every 30 minutes to make sure that there is still enough water and that the sauce is beginning to thicken. After 2 hours taste your filling to make sure that it is tasty. Tastes differ and I always add another bit of pepper.
    Now place the contents of the pot in a 24 x 28-cm pie bowl. Cover the pie with puff pastry so that the filling is completely covered. Decorate it with a cute leaf pattern if you wish. With the tip of a knife make a small exhaust hole for the steam in the middle of your pie. Brush milk or egg on your pastry to make the crust golden brown.
    Bake in an oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
    Serve and enjoy!


    14 reasons why you are always tired

    Are your eyelids heavy although it’s only 10 o’clock in the morning? Here are a few reasons why you are battling to stay awake:


    1. You don’t drink enough water

    Dehydration causes the blood volume to increase, which makes the blood thicker. This results in the heart not being able to pump blood very efficiently, with less oxygen and nutrients reaching the muscles and organs. Even dehydration of a small volume of water in your body can cause a drop in energy.


    2. You spend too much time in front of the computer or on your cell phone before bedtime.

    The light of your cell phone or computer disturbs the natural rhythm of melatonin in your body. This is a hormone that regulates sleep and waking.

    1. You don’t get enough iron

    An iron deficiency can cause debility and an inability to focus. Eat foods such as eggs, beans, nuts and dark-green leafy vegetables together with vitamin C-rich food (it enhances the absorption of iron).

    1. You’re living on junk food

    Your blood-sugar level must remain stable. One protein taken with a whole-wheat product will be useful. Salmon and sweet potatoes, salad with chicken and fruit or chicken with brown rice are good substitutes for food with a high sugar content and unhealthy carbohydrates.

    1. You have a problem saying no

    Constantly trying to please the people around you, can rob you of your happiness and energy. The author of Eat.Q suggests that one should practise saying no aloud. Therefore, the next time a teacher asks you in the middle of the week to bake cookies for the whole class and you are not up to it, say no courteously but clearly.

    1. You don’t eat breakfast

    Eat breakfast to get your metabolism going and let oxygen-laden blood flow through your body. A healthy breakfast must include whole-wheat, protein and healthy fats, e.g. oats with a bit of peanut butter or eggs with two slices of whole-wheat bread and low-fat Greek yogurt.

    1. You are a perfectionist

    You work too hard, you want to do everything on your own and you set yourself unrealistic goals.

    1. You always expect the worst

    You want to unravel everything in the minutest detail and then you still expect only the worst. This causes stress, which drains your emotional energy. Take a walk or go for a jog, or chat to colleagues or friends for a few minutes. This could help you think clearly again.

    1. Your office and/or environment is untidy

    Organise your personal environment and try to finish all your work by the end of the day.

    1. You work during your leave

    If you really rest during your leave, you will go back to work with more creativity and productivity.

    1. Too much alcohol before going to bed

    This will let you wake up in the middle of the night. Try to avoid alcohol for at least three hours before bedtime.

    1. Insufficient exercise

    According to a study by the University of Georgia healthy adults who exercised three times a week for approximately 20 minutes per session had more energy than previously after six weeks.

    1. You drink your last cup of coffee for the day too late

    Drinking coffee as many as three times a day can definitely not harm you, but coffee up to six hours before bedtime can disturb your sleep.

    1. You stay awake late over weekends

    Staying up late on a Saturday night and getting up late the following morning will affect your Sunday-night sleep and therefore getting up on Monday morning. Even if you go to bed late, try to get up early and rather reward yourself with a short nap in the afternoon.

    One or more of these factors could be the reason why you have a hard time concentrating during the day. A healthy diet and lifestyle will restore your zest for life.



    Health.com. 2014. 14 Reasons Why You’re Always Tired – Health.com. [Online]. Available at by: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20818045,00.html [Accessed on 4 December 2014]



    Public places with the most germs

    Lize-Marie Labuschagne


    There are more places than just public toilets that contain a host of germs. Although not all germs are harmful, the presence of germs on tested surfaces indicates favourable conditions for micro-organisms to grow and survive, which can create an environment for viruses and bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella that cause disease. In other words, the higher the level of bacteria, the higher the probability that a few thereof could be harmful.

    The top disease-tainted surfaces to avoid when you leave home:

    Restaurant menus

    Restaurant menus have 100 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, says Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. Rather wash your hands after having ordered than before you sit down. And don’t put the menu down on the silverware in front of you.

    Cloakroom door handles

    Many people shudder to touch doors’ handles, with good reasons. How often do they actually wash the handles? Take along a paper towel with which to open the door. You may get strange glances, but at least you won’t be the one falling ill.

    Shopping trolleys and baskets

    It would seem that you pick up more than purchases with the trolleys or baskets. Many grocery stores have antibacterial tissues close at hand, use them.

    Doctors’ consulting rooms

    A doctor’s consulting room is the last place you want to be if you want to avoid germs. Take along your own tissues and a sanitary hand-wash, with an alcohol content of at least 60%. Take along your own books and magazines. Allow at least two chairs between you and the nearest patients in the waiting room to decrease your chances of catching their illnesses.

    Twists of lemon

    Next time you might want to take your next iced tea without the twist of lemon. Almost 70% of the lemon slices on the rims of glasses contain disease-causing microbes, including E. coli and faeces, which could cause some horrid stomach problems.


    These include ATM keys, cash and the revolving door at the bank. The flu virus can live on a banknote for 17 days, but no-one uses gloves or tissues to handle money. ATM companies hope to introduce touch screens with antimicrobic glass that combat colds and flu. For now, your best defence is to press the keys with a pen.

    Soap dishes

    Ironic as it may be, public soap dishes offer a breeding ground for bacteria. Approximately 25% of public soap dishes are contaminated with faecal bacteria. Next time rather wash your hands in warm water for 15 – 20 seconds or take along a sanitary hand-wash that contains alcohol.







    Why men often die earlier than women

    There are several disquieting facts and statistics that point to women outliving men by a large margin.


    Robert Shmerling, MD, faculty editor of Harvard Health Publications, says a solid 57% of all of those aged 65 and older in the US are female. By age 85, this percentage has already increased to 67% – more than two thirds of the entire age cohort. There are three women for every male in the 90+ age group.


    So why do women live longer than men? Solidarity World has compiled a list of factors that cut the life expectancy of men:


    • Cultural factors


    Marianne J Legato, MD, writer of Why Men Die First: How to Lengthen Your Lifespan, says men’s medical challenges are in large part due to cultural conditioning.The rules are set shortly after birth: Suck up the pain, don’t be a wimp, show no weakness, and ‘man up’. Many men only seek medical counsel when under duress from a spouse or when their condition has deteriorated to a severe state.”


    “Women are able to logically ask for help. They’re hardwired in the brain and very motivated. The cultural reasons for not going to the doctor are killing men,” she says.


    • Bigger body size



    Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to longevity. “On average, people over 6 feet tall don’t live as long as people shorter than 6 feet tall,” says Dr Vincent Giampapa, a New Jersey board-certified anti-aging physician.

    According to a study published in Medical Hypothesis in 2004, larger individuals within a species tend to have shorter lives. This is true for humans and most animal species – including fish, insects, primates and dogs – alike. “Across many species, larger animals tend to die younger than smaller ones. Although the magnitude of this effect is uncertain in humans, it tends to work against male longevity,” Shmerling says.


    • Risks and risky jobs



    Shmerling says it’s “biological destiny” for men to die earlier than women as they are physiologically inclined to take more risks and do riskier jobs. “The frontal lobe of the brain — the part that controls judgment and consideration of an action’s consequences — develops more slowly in boys and young men than in their female counterparts. This likely contributes to the fact that far more boys and men die in accidents or due to violence than girls and women. Examples include biking, driving drunk, and homicide,” he says.


    He further states that men far outnumber women in some of the riskiest jobs, including military combat and construction.


    Men also exacerbate their inherent health risks with risky lifestyle habits, such as smoking, eating unhealthy foods and drinking excessively.


    • More susceptible to disease – especially those that affect the heart



    Shmerling point to a disconcerting fact in this regard: Men are a whopping 50% more likely to die from heart disease than women. “The fact that men have lower estrogen levels than women may be part of the reason. But medical risks, such as poorly treated high blood pressure or unfavourable cholesterol levels, may contribute as well.”


    Sean Hagberg, chief science officer of Rio Grande Neurosciences in Santa Fe, N.M., and clinical assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, corroborates this. “Even in the first year of life men have a higher mortality rate, and this persists throughout life.”


    Dr Larry Santora, a cardiologist with St Joseph Health System in Orange, California, ties this to higher levels of estrogen in women – protecting them from heart disease for 10 to 15 years longer than men. “It’s well known that estrogen raises good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad cholesterol (LDL). Estrogen makes the inner lining of the coronary arteries more flexible, so it’s less prone to injury and inflammation related to plaque formation and atherosclerosis.”


    • Suicide


    Men tend to be less social than women and hence have fewer social connections. This increases their isolation and risk of suicide. “This is true despite the fact that depression is considered more common among women and women make more (non-fatal) suicide attempts. Some attribute this to the tendency for men to avoid seeking care for depression and the cultural norms that discourage men from seeking help for mental illness,” Shmerling says.





    Don Fernandez, 4 September 2008, “Why men’s lives are shorter than women’s”, http://www.webmd.com/men/features/why-mens-lives-are-shorter-than-women?page=4.


    Linda Melone, 14 August 2015, “11 reasons why men die sooner than women”, http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/11-reasons-men-die-sooner-than-women/ss-AA2gR0x#image=1.


    Robert Shmerling, 19 february 2016, “Why men often die earlier than women”, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-men-often-die-earlier-than-women-201602199137?utm_source=delivra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=BF20160727-Sleep&utm_id=208931&mid=12998947&ml=208931.


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