Tag Archives: stroke

Rugby player suffers a stroke after freak gym accident…

Burly rugby player has a stroke after freak gym accident… wakes up gay and becomes a hairdresser

By Claire Bates

A 19st rugby player suffered a stroke while training – and discovered when he woke up that he was gay.

Chris Birch, 26, had proposed to his girlfriend and worked in a bank when he suffered a freak accident in the gym.

The rugby-loving Welshman was trying to impress his friends with a back flip but broke his neck and suffered a stroke.

He was taken to the Royal Gwent hospital where his girlfriend and family waited for news – but said: ‘I was gay when I woke up and I still am.’

His friends were stunned by the dramatic changes to his personality, especially his change in sexuality.

Chris said: ‘It sounds strange but when I came round I immediately felt different.

‘I wasn’t interested in women any more. I was definitely gay.

‘I had never been attracted to a man before – I’d never even had any gay friends. But I didn’t care about who I was before, I had to be true to my feelings.’

Before the accident Chris was planning on settling down with his girlfriend, although they were having a break from each other at the time of his accident.

He worked in a bank and spent his weekends watching sport and drinking beer with his rugby friends.

But after the stroke he found he was no longer interested in sport and had little in common with his old friends.

He quit his job to become a hairdresser and started dating a man he met at a club night.

Chris, of Ystrad Mynach, south Wales, said: ‘Suddenly, I hated everything about my old life. I didn’t get on with my friends, I hated sport and found my job boring.

‘I started to take more pride in my appearance, bleached my hair and started working out.

‘I went from a 19st skinhead to a 11st preened man.

‘People I used to know barely recognised me and with my new look I became even more confident.’

He said his family struggled to come to terms with his sudden change of identity so he decided to move out of home.

Chris retrained as a hairdresser and now lives with his partner Jack Powell, 19, above the salon in which he works.

He sought advice from his neurologist who said the changes in his personality could be due to the stroke opening up a different part of his brain.

There have been cases of patients waking up with different accents and of others becoming artists following strokes.

Transformation: Chris Birch with his boyfriend Jack. He said: ‘I think I’m happier than ever, so I don’t regret the accident’

Chris said: ‘I think I’m happier than ever, so I don’t regret the accident. I’m nothing like the old Chris now and although I’m sorry it’s upset my family, I wouldn’t change a thing.’

Stroke association spokesman Joe Korner said: ‘Strokes can have a big effect on individuals and lead to personality changes.

‘During recovery the brain makes new neural connections which can trigger things people weren’t aware of such as accent, language or perhaps a different sexuality.

‘Whether or not the stroke turned Chris gay, or whether he was gay anyway but unaware of it, his experience seems to be a positive one, which is great.’

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The Top 5 Killers of Men

The Top 5 Killers of Men

By Bill Phillips and the Editors of Men’s Health
Jun 16, 2011

It was a sunny September day in the Pacific Northwest, and Jeff Hale had just closed a $1.5 million deal. To celebrate, he was taking the afternoon off, relaxing on his patio lounge, and playing ball with his dog. That’s when he began feeling compression high in his chest, some pain in his left shoulder, and an unsettling sense of dread. At 44, he was in relatively good shape, although 15 pounds overweight and under a lot of stress from work. At first, he thought it was an asthma attack and took a hit off his inhaler. But when that didn’t help, he remembered an article he’d read in Men’s Health.

“There were two things from that article I recalled,”
he recounted to our reporter a few years ago. “One was that every heart attack is unique. My symptoms will be different from your symptoms. The other was, if you suspect you’re having a heart attack, take an aspirin.” Hale took two and drove himself to the hospital. He almost didn’t make it. Doctors found blockages in three arteries and performed a triple bypass the next day. “They told me I’d saved my life,” says Hale. “The aspirin thinned my blood, and the inhaler dilated my arteries.”

Heart disease is the number one killer of men, claiming the lives of nearly 400,000 fathers, friends, brothers, and sons every year. Often, the difference between life and death is razor thin—remembering to pop an aspirin, not delaying your trip to the E.R.

This week is National Men’s Health Week, which was created by Congress in 1994 to raise the awareness of the health threats uniquely facing men. To commemorate, we’ve put together a list of the most popular ways to die as a man in America. Collectively, these diseases kill nearly one million of us annually. And, chances are, your lifestyle or genetic profile puts you at risk for at least one of them.

But, as Jeff Hale learned, our fates are not sealed. If you understand your risks, and learn how to negate them, you can outrun the reaper. Here’s how:


Why you’re at risk: Each year, nearly 50,000 American men die of a stroke, according to the American Heart Association. I know what you’re thinking: But those are really old men. But you’re wrong. In fact, 1 in 14 stroke victims is younger than 45. As a neurologist I interviewed a few years ago told me: “If you did MRI scans on a hundred 40-year-olds, you’d see that a large number have already had a silent stroke.” And that’s scary because small, silent strokes often precede large, debilitating strokes.

What you can do about it: Keep your blood pressure at 120/80 or lower. Every 20-point increase in systolic BP (the top number) or every 10-point rise in diastolic BP doubles your risk of dying of a stroke, says Walter Kernan, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Yale University. The good news: Simple lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce your risk. Assess your stroke risk right here, and learn how to turn the odds in your favor.


Why you’re at risk: Nearly 60,000 men died from COPD—which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema—in 2006, according to the CDC. The chief cause: the Marlboro Man. In fact, smoking causes 80 percent of COPD deaths. Considering that tobacco use has also been directly linked to the other man killers on our Top 5 list—notably, heart disease (#1) and cancer (#2)—you have to ask: Why are people still smoking?

What you can do about it: It’s pretty simple, really. You need to figure out how to kick butts for good. Improve your odds by joining a gym—smokers who are trying to quit often fall off the wagon during stressful moments. Regular exercise lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the brain. Warning: Going cold turkey is one of the least successful ways of quitting. Find out how to tilt the odds of success in your favor by checking out Will You Be Able to Quit Smoking?


Why you’re at risk: According to the CDC, 80,000 men die each year in unexpected tragedies, from sports injuries to fires to falls. But the most preventable accidental deaths are the 30,000 that occur on America’s roads every year.

What’s that? You’re a great driver? Not surprising that you think so. According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 72 percent of drivers regard themselves as more skilled than everyone else. Researchers trace the bias to a fundamental information imbalance, namely that the poorest performers are also the least able to recognize skill (or lack of skill) in themselves or others.

But fine, let’s say it’s true. Then consider the guys you’re sharing the road with: Surveys indicate there’s a nearly 80 percent chance they speed regularly, and a 53 percent likelihood they talk on the phone while driving. There’s a 4 percent chance they run red lights—on purpose—and a 2 percent chance they have driven after drinking too much. These guys make Evel Knievel look like a defensive driver.

What you can do about it: If you do one thing today, make it this: Stop texting while driving. You’ve probably heard that texting behind the wheel is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Not true. Texting is way more dangerous. In fact, texting increases your risk of a crash by 23 times (versus 11 times for driving under the influence), according to a Virginia Tech study. Step into the MH Driving Simulator and test how well you multitask behind the wheel.


Why you’re at risk: The Big C killed nearly 300,000 men in 2010, according to the American Cancer Society. Lung cancer tops the list, accounting for 29 percent of all cancer deaths, followed by prostate cancer (11 percent) and colon/rectum cancer (9 percent). We all know that smoking causes lung cancer, but the risk factors for prostate cancer are less well known. Yet, it’s one of the most common—1 in 6 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetimes—and least understood killers of men.

What you can do about it: Take our quiz to determine your risk. If you’re at high risk, put certain staples of the Mediterranean diet on your plate. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that men who eat more than 10 grams of garlic or scallions (about three cloves of garlic or 2 tablespoons of scallions) daily have a 50 percent lower risk of prostate cancer than those who eat less than 2 grams. Sound like too much of a good thing? Other studies have linked the lycopene in cooked tomato products to lower prostate cancer risk; aim for at least two servings a week. And if you really like coffee . . . Harvard researchers found that drinking 6 cups a day reduces your risk of developing advanced prostate cancer by 59 percent.


Why you’re at risk: This is the deadliest disease known to man. More than 1 in 3 adult men have some sort of heart disease and more than 390,000 men died of the killer in 2007, according to the American Heart Association.

But you’re a fit, healthy guy, right? Why would you die of heart disease? Believe it or not, not every victim of the disease is overweight or inactive. Men’s Health Editor Peter Moore discovered this eight years ago. He was doing everything right: He was thin, exercised regularly, and ate a healthy diet. But none of that prevented one of the arteries in his heart from becoming 99 percent blocked. Still think you’re risk-free? You can find out your heart disease risk by clicking right here.

What you can do about it: Small lifestyle changes can yield big results when it comes to improving heart health. Here are four simple changes you can make today:

• Exercise for 30 minutes. Middle-aged men who exercise vigorously for two hours a week (aim for 30 minutes, four times a week) have a 60 percent lower risk of a heart attack than inactive men.

• Lose the spare tire. If you’re overweight, dropping 10 to 20 pounds lowers your risk of dying from a heart attack. In fact, a 10-year study found that overweight people had heart attacks 8.2 years earlier than normal-weight victims.

• Drink five glasses of water a day. Men who drink that many 8-ounce glasses are 54 percent less likely to have a fatal heart attack than those who drink two glasses or fewer. Researchers say the water dilutes the blood, making it less likely to clot.

• Count to 10. Keeping your cool under stress may keep you alive. Men who respond with anger are three times more likely to have heart disease and five times more likely to have a heart attack before turning 55.


It’s the Aspartame stupid! Diet soda linked to heightened stroke risk

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Diet Soda: Fewer Calories, Greater Stroke Risk?

Controversial Study Linking Diet Soda to Heightened Stroke Risk Draws Skepticism

KATIE MOISSE ABC News Medical Unit

New research that links diet soda consumption with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke has doctors urging caution about the controversial and preliminary results.

According to a study of more than 2,500 people presented today as a poster at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles, people who drank diet soda daily had a 61 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who drank no soda, even when accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and calories consumed per day.

“This study suggests that diet soda is not an optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, and may be associated with a greater risk of stroke,” Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami and her colleagues reported at the conference.

But the questionnaire-based study garnered criticism by experts in diet, nutrition and vascular disease.

“This study has major flaws and should not change anyone’s diet soda consumption,” said ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.


The researchers used data obtained though the multi-ethnic, population-based Northern Manhattan Study to examine risk factors for stroke, heart attack and other vascular events such as blood clots in the limbs. While 901 participants reported drinking no soda at the start of the study, 163 said they drank one or more diet sodas per day.

“One of the many flaws here is that participants were asked about soda intake at only one point in time, when they entered the study,” Besser said. “It is difficult to imagine that people’s intake of soda is constant during that period.”

Connie Diekman, a registered dietician and director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St Louis, said, “Population-based studies provide some ‘food for thought’ but shouldn’t be used as the basis of nutrition guides for individuals. This study would be another one that indicates more controlled studies are needed.”

Drinking regular or diet soda has previously been linked to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. Surprisingly, Gardener and colleagues failed to detect an increased cardiovascular risk among daily drinkers of regular soda.

“Unfortunately, it may be that individuals with poor dietary habits do resort in some kind of calorie balancing and continue to eat high-calorie sweet foods but reduce their guilt by drinking diet soda,” said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of the New York University Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, explaining the propensity to wash down a high-fat meal with low-cal soda.

Although the authors went on to control for metabolic syndrome (a component of which is obesity), peripheral vascular disease and cardiac disease history later in their analysis — lowering the magnitude of increased risk to 48 percent — they did not account for variations in eating habits.

“In my 20 years of clinical practice, patients who consume diet soda tend to have more of a sweet tooth; to get more sweet cravings; to eat more foods with added sugar; and to like and eat more processed food than patients who avoid both regular and diet soda,” said Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.

Tumor from Aspartame consumption

Work in Progress’

Dr. Ralph Sacco, chair of neurology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and senior author on the report, said, “As a first step, we just looked at total calories. It’s a work in progress.”

Although the authors controlled for vascular disease and metabolic syndrome, Miami’s Sacco theorized that drinking diet soda might increase stroke and heart attack risk by modulating vascular risk factors and metabolism.

“When we control for these, we still see an association but it’s attenuated a bit,” Sacco said, adding that people who drank daily diet soda had a higher mean body-mass index and were slightly more likely to have diabetes.

“I think we need confirmation in other, larger data sets,” Sacco said. “We find this intriguing but it requires follow-up.”

Critics also noted the failure to control for a family history of cardiovascular disease or hyperlipidemia, both of which are known risk factors for stroke and heart attack, according to Dr. Nehal Mehta, director of the Inflammatory Risk Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania.

And the study population may have been at a higher-than-normal risk for cardiovascular events, with an event rate of 22 percent compared with the expected rate of 8 to 10 percent, Mehta said.

Roughly three-quarters of the study participants were African-American or Hispanic; both considered to be at a higher risk for cardiovascular problems.

But some experts welcomed the study as a “wake-up call” for many to ditch diet soda in favor of water and other more natural beverages.

“Any way you slice it, soda drinking is not healthy and should be done sparingly,” said Dr. Peter McCullough, consultant cardiologist and chief academic and scientific officer for St. John Providence Health System and the Providence Park Heart Institute in Southfield, Mich.

Love at first.......

“The study highlights the increasingly negative information we are getting about the consumption of non-caloric sweetened beverages,” said Dr. Jana Klauer, a New York City-based private practice physician specializing in weight control and nutrition. “People drink them to save calories and enjoy a sweet taste, but diet soda hasn’t lead to weight loss and now appears to be causing more problems than it solves.”

Dr. Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology and director of the University of North Carolina McAllister Heart Institute, said, “We can’t ignore this association but we really don’t know what it means right now. It is implausible to me that diet drinks actually cause heart disease, but it does make sense that people who drink diet sodas might make other lifestyle choices, like exercising less, that contribute to the results of this study.

“I’ll continue to pack a diet soda with my lunch, but I’ll look more carefully at what else is in my lunch box,” Patterson said, “and I’ll pay more attention to what I’m doing while I’m drinking my diet soda.”

KATIE MOISSE ABC News Medical Unit

Feb. 9, 2011