Stroke of Luck NOW! – Book review

Prodigal Son

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Stroke of Luck: NOW! Fast and Free Exercises to Immediately Begin Mastering Neuroplasticity Following Stroke – Righty Now!, by Bob Dennis, (2019). Also, there is a Kindle version with activated links; in fact, this book is a paper version of the Kindle book.

First, a little bit of background information.

The book is based upon the author’s personal experiences. He’s 54 and has suffered two strokes so far. The first was misdiagnosed! Now he is recovery from both. He is a biomedical engineer and his work colleagues are neurophysiologists, so he was able to get good advice quickly. Please take note that strokes are affecting people at a much younger age than you would think; 10% of people affected are below the age of 50.

Strokes happen, more often than not, without warning and produce either an obstruction in a blood vessel to the brain, or a vein ruptures, and, the longer a person is without oxygen to the brain, the greater the risk of lasting damage. An MRI scan will determine which is causing the stroke, and most are blood clots.

On a personal note, I recently learnt that an elder cousin suffered a massive stroke and was only found 6 ½ hours later, and with fractured bones as a result of a fall. She was too old and had too many other internal problems that she could not be operated upon to set the bones. In fact, she was in a coma from which she did awake, but she was found too late and has too many internal problems to cope with. As a result, she is now in an ‘end of life’ care home.

If it is possible to get help within 3 hours of the stroke occurring then emergency medication can dissolve a blood clot which will prevent further damage to the brain.

As far as symptoms go, and according to Dr Mercola’s website (where I first learnt about this book), a lack of oxygen to the brain is characterised by symptoms such as:
sudden numbness and weakness, typically to one side of the face, arm, or leg – such as face drooping or arm weakness,
sudden confusion, or misunderstanding,
sudden vision problems,
sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or co-ordination, or dizziness,
sudden severe headache, nausea, or vomiting with no known cause.

Also, these symptoms may last for only a short time, hardly noticeable – these are known as mini or micro-strokes. A build-up of such micro-strokes can cause serious effects if not caught and acted upon quickly.

If a person experiences any of the above symptoms it is important to get them checked out fast. If a clot occurs it is possible to get medical care, in the form of thrombolytics which will break up blood clots, provided that the stroke is not caused by bleeding within the brain.

Following a stroke, it is important to engage your neuroplasticity (through learning new things) to regain lost function – brain training and physical exercises – to develop alternative pathways to bypass the damaged areas (where you knew what to do, yet have difficulty doing after a stroke, and need to relearn). The sooner it is started the more effective it will be after damage. The author was able to do this, and went from not being able to stand, walk, or talk to being able to move at the end the first day following his second stroke.

My father only had rudimentary therapeutic care after he out of hospital, following a stroke, his speech really suffered and it was sad to see him struggle to communicate, to be understood, and to see his self-esteem and dignity gradually disappear. He never recovered for the rest of his life.

Neuroplasticity naturally kicks in following a stroke. There is a brief period - a few months, six – when immense neuroplastic activity is available. For maximal recovery, it must be used effectively and sustained by exercise and lifestyle changes. And, with the right approach neuroplasticity can be extended and sustained for longer, for a better recovery. This book is primarily about what to do to make use of this time, and, the exercises given are simple and free. The author states that it is possible to achieve more than 100% recovery in many cases.

The author states that it is key to start straight away even if it is something as simple as talking like a baby – this can be done even before the medical staff start assessing you. As he points out in the book, the key is to do novel things, to keep moving, to keep learning, to keep doing things, to keep challenging yourself.

Due to the importance of the information contained within the book, for immediately dealing with a person who has suffered a stroke, the following extract is quoted, with the permission of the author.
Feel free to share this summary with anyone who you may think would benefit from it. This is the abbreviated version of the longer book – Stroke of Luck[: Master Neuroplasticity for Recovery and Growth after Stroke], where I give lengthy and detailed descriptions of everything I did to maximise my recovery from stroke. …
Starting right away, … first assessed … This begins in the ambulance. … “rapid assessment exercises”. … These can be used as the basis for very effective stroke recovery exercises.
SUMMARY

1. Immediately following stroke, the brain enters a process of intensive rewiring called neuroplasticity.
2. I refer to this as enhanced natural neuroplasticity because it is the brain’s natural response to stroke injury. This state has been shown scientifically to involve most of the brain after stroke as it rearranges itself to recover basic and critical functions.
3. To a lesser degree, neuroplasticity is also induced any time you challenge your brain, such as exercise-induced, diet-induced, and novelty-induced neuroplasticity.
4. During the period of enhanced natural neuroplasticity following stroke, your brain will respond more quickly and easily than normal by rewiring itself to rise to new challenges and exercises. Your brain has entered an intensive learning mode.
5. The best time to recover and even improve brain function is during the weeks right after a stroke, so the sooner you get started the better.
6. Enhanced natural neuroplasticity begins immediately following stroke, tapers off slowly, and most experts agree that under normal circumstances it is more or less done by 6 months or so after stroke. Usually after this time window, any additional recovery is less dramatic and happens much more slowly, if at all.
7. Based on my research into neuroplasticity and my personal experience with stroke recovery, I conclude that it is possible to do exercises and make lifestyle changes that amplify and sustain the process of enhanced neuroplasticity following stroke.
8. I believe a much longer period of neuroplasticity can be sustained if you do the right things: move, seek novelty, learn new things, meet new people, read, write, talk, think, practice things that challenge you, and enrich your environment.
9. My strategy has been that using these exercises and lifestyle changes would amplify my already enhanced natural post-stroke neuroplasticity, making it even more potent, and frequent practice of these exercises and lifestyle changes would extend the time window of post-stroke neuroplasticity, giving me a longer time window for recovery, beyond the generally assumed 6 months. This is the strategy I describe in detail in this book.
10 .Following this plan, my recovery so far has been extended, and about 7 months into it, it still seems to be going strong. I have been doing the following things:
a. I practiced every stroke assessment test they gave me in the clinic, beginning even before they put me in the ambulance to the hospital.
b. For example: they asked me to say “da da da da” as fast as I could, but initially I had trouble with this. As soon as I was alone, I would practice it on my own, repeating “da da da da”, making a point to speak clearly. The keys are (1) repetition, (2) pay attention, (3) work to speak clearly, (4) keep gently but persistently pushing yourself, (5) as you get better, say it faster and louder and (6) take note of your improvement and enjoy it, which will help you to strengthen your resolve to keep practicing.
c. For example: at first I could not reach my arm out then back to touch my nose with my left index index finger, so I practiced it until I could do it smoothly; then I practiced it with my eyes closed; then I practiced it moving my hand along a different path; then I practiced it using a different finger or my left thumb; the then I practised it at different movement speeds (fast and slow) with all of the variations stated above.
d. Avoid injury but keep moving. Focus on avoiding hazards and preventing injury while you move often. Pay attention and plan your movements safely. But move often.
e. Focus on movements you find difficult. Tasks that you find familiar, simple and easy are not as helpful for promoting neuroplasticity and recover as working on tasks that you find novel and somewhat challenging.
f. It is normal human nature to do so, but [U]don’t avoid doing tasks or saying words or anything that you find difficult[/U].
11.You will see rapid improvements in anything that you practice.
12. Take note of and remember any task or text they give you. There will be many. [U]Remember especially the tasks you have problems doing[/U]: saying certain words or sounds, recalling the names of items, reading aloud, moving a hand or foot or other body part, touching your nose with your finger, holding a hand or foot steady, moving or focusing your eyes.
13. Remember these tests, then practice them often and tell your physician you are doing so.
14. Tasks you have trouble doing indicate which functions of your brain have been lost or damaged.
15. YOUR BRAIN IS READY TO RE-WIRE AND RE-LEARN HOW TO DO THOSE TASKS RIGHT NOW. SO, START PRACTICING THOSE DIFFICULT TASKS RIGHT NOW.
16. As long as it is safe to do, you find it challenging, and does not interfere with your medical treatment, keep practicing the tasks you find difficult until you re-master them.
17. This is your brain rewiring itself. Initially this process will be challenging but rapid, so keep at it, watch your improvement as it happens, and enjoy it as it unfolds.
18. Almost every moment of the day is an opportunity to try something new and challenging. The more you make a habit of this, the better your recovery will be.
19. Collect as many tasks as you can from the assessments they give you, as they assess your stroke. But you should also be creative and develop your own variations on these tasks, as well as new exercises, to keep it challenging. This help sustain the state of neuroplasticity in your brain.
20. Find and take note of problem areas on your own, and practice them until you master them. For example, if you find yourself stumbling on a word or phrase, DO NOT AVOID SAYING IT. Do just the opposite: say it over and over again as carefully and as clearly as you can, until you remaster it.
21. SAFETY: Before you start moving around, be aware that you will be much more likely to injure yourself. So carefully plan your steps, and be sure to have firm places to grip and soft places to land if you fall.
22. SAFETY: Watch for items on the floor that could injure your feet and carefully avoid them or have them removed.
23. SAFETY: chewing and swallowing can be dangerous. Sit up or stand straight up (not reclined), inhale through the nose before taking food or pills, chew carefully, don’t talk or allow distractions while eating or taking medications.
24. HOME SAFETY: Make your bathroom and stairs safe: consider anti-slip surfaces and hand rails.
25. As soon as you are allowed to, start moving, keep moving, and focus on practicing movements that you find challenging.
26. As soon as you can, before you leave the hospital if possible, sign up for all forms of therapy available to you: physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy are the big ones. If you have balance issues, you should ask about whether or not vestibular therapy would be appropriate for you as well.
27. Actively engage in your therapy: start as soon as you can, ask questions, tell the therapists where you are having problems, ask for extra advice they may have on areas you really want to improve, practice at home, go to every session, and do not quit early because you have “learned everything”.
28. Remain positive and imagine yourself speaking clearly and moving gracefully. Focus your imagination and self-image on your full recovery, not on your disability.
29. Weaknesses can become strengths, if you respond intelligently.
30. This book is about my stroke, what I did, and how it worked for me. This is not specific advice for anyone else.
The author mentions life changes too. One of which is partaking in intermittent fasting, as has been discussed on the Forum.

Recommended reading for all, or just accessing for possible future reference/use.
 
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