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Bloggers abuzz about sex and stroke

Posted Sep 22 2008 10:35am

WOW! - I know, I used the word sex and “the other “s” word” together- I can explain…

I mentioned in my last post I’d be following up with more information on the emerging technologies available to enhance stroke rehabilitation outcomes. Well, this post as you can tell from the title is not about stroke rehab directly, (although many stroke survivors might argue that sex would be the most enjoyable and welcomed component to any therapy plan of care).

Anyway, my point in including this post here is that it confirms my suspicion when you add those three little letters together to form the word “ se x” it certainly pulls readers in to any headline and grabs attention.

The proof: I’ve never seen more bloggers post on any one single stroke related topic in a given week, than this past one, EVER.

Here’s only a few of the recent headlines:

“Holy ^@#~ ! “ A stroke from Sex
35yr Old Woman has Orgasm Related Stroke
When Sex Leads To Stroke

That’s enough- I think you get my point….

Image Preview Unfortunately, the rise in attention recently for stroke awareness came at the expense of a 35-year old Illinois woman. She, too, at the time probably didn’t realize that sex with her boyfriend could trigger a life threatening stroke that temporarily left one side of her face numb, slurred speech and weakness in her left arm. While her physician treated her, it is reported he was puzzled to find that his patient did not “fit the profile of a typical stroke sufferer”. This stroke survivor is a young, healthy, non-smoking woman with no known cardiovascular risk factors.

Her doctor acted FAST…

Her physician found it too late to inject her with tPA, a clot-busting drug that must be administered within three hours of a stroke. In what was reported as a risky decision, he ran a catheter from an artery in the groin to her brain, applying tPA directly to the clot. Her symptoms improved almost immediately and within an hour she was out of danger and is reported to be well on her way to a full recovery.

Why did I add my first post on sex and stroke?

Well, I can assure you it was not to grab headlines, Sarah Palin is still leading that category these days. This unfortunate incident did remind me of a topic that wasn’t discussed much during the management of my PFO or during my own stroke rehab. Yes, sex. Is it safe when you have a PFO or other similar known heart defect?

So, to get to the answer (maybe) let’s look at what was the reason for the recent headline grabbing “ stroke after sex ” which perpetuated a blogging frenzy As a rule, sex and orgasm triggered strokes are rare in young men and women, though not unheard of. For such a stroke to occur in a relatively young person, experts still argue that it perhaps requires a combination of factors and events, not unusual in themselves, but extremely unlikely to occur at the same time. One variable that seems to be consistent in the cases that have been reported involving young people who (were brave enough to tell the truth) had suffered similar sex related strokes, is that they all had a small opening in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart, as was in the case of this young Illinois woman. This minor heart defect or opening, called Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO), as you can read more about throughout my blog, is found by many reports to be seen as frequently as in one in four adults. Such an opening allows some blood to flow from the right to the left side of the heart, bypassing lungs only to go straight to the brain. As there are no symptoms, most people with PFO do not know they have this heart defect. It has been reported that 40% of people suffering a cryptogenic stroke ( i.e.) a stroke with no known cause, have been found to have PFO.

Is sex the culprit?

It is well reported that strain can cause increased blood flow through a PFO. For example, the strain of bearing down during a bowel movement, strain of breathing out of a shut mouth or holding a breath, and strain during sex, particularly during orgasm,. Experts will mostly agree strokes are not caused by PFO’s alone, there must be a small blood clot present, which must break free and enter the heart, then cross over and bypass the body’s normal “pulmonary filter” instead traveling through the PFO then up to the brain. Normally, the rule of thumb is that small blood clots stuck in the lungs dissolve, but a blood clot that passes through a PFO lodges itself in the brain and causes a stroke.

Again, with the Illinois woman serving as our own case study here, this young patient suffered a headline grabbing “sex-related stroke” because of her PFO. It was also reported she had a small blood clot in her leg, the possible side effect of oral contraceptives taken for birth control. Doctors generally still report that a vast majority of people with PFOs, often go through life without any problems, and while the risk of stroke during sex must be kept in perspective, the risk is low if you consider the chain of events needed and presented in this post. Fortunately, according to stroke experts, sexual intercourse, in itself, is not likely to trigger a stroke without accompanying risk factors.

So, now l can get back to writing and researching for my next post of emerging stroke technologies and hope to have that available soon. In the meantime, please use the recent sex and stroke buzz to be reminded that strokes occur all year long, just not during Stroke Awareness Month in May. In fact, here are the stats:

  • 700,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year
  • Approximately 160,000 die of stroke each year

The most common risk factors for stroke in young people are those linked to migraines, drug use, coagulation diseases, or athletic injuries that cause trauma or injury in the blood vessels, especially in the neck. Even with these risk factors, the chances of a young person suffering from stroke are extremely small but that is no reason to be ignorant of the warning signs. As I’ve been saying all along, there are young faces of stroke and you should know what they look like. Be prepared and get help fast. Know-Stroke!

As one stroke campaign says well, Time Lost is Brain Lost

Until next time-

Written by David Dansereau

      

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