TORONTO, August 7, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Many parents feels anxious about the inevitable talk about the "birds and bees" with their children - sitting their kids down and explaining the facts. However, when the tables are turned and the "kids" become adults, having "The Talk" with their parent(s) about sensitive health issues can be really uncomfortable. A recent survey shows about 60 per cent of Canadian adults with living parent(s) regularly do not have "The Talk" about health issues with their parent(s) and almost a third (30 per cent) say they don't quite know how to start conversations with them about sensitive health topics.
Breaking the Ice
Having "The Talk" about health issues is very important - especially when it comes to a condition like atrial fibrillation (AF) and its link to stroke. If you have AF, a serious heart condition, your risk of stroke is considered three to five times higher than those without AF. Fortunately - with a physician's help and by taking some practical steps - you can take action to lower this risk.
"The survey makes it clear that Canadians understand how debilitating strokes can be, but for whatever reason it seems that they aren't talking about AF and stroke with their parents," says Dr. Frank Silver, Professor of Medicine (Neurology), University of Toronto. "We need to open the lines of communication to encourage Canadians 55 years and older to proactively raise the topic during their next doctor's visit to get checked and if needed, start treatment to reduce their risk."
To help break the ice, new tools are available at www.StrokeAndAF.ca - an educational resource available to Canadians with information about AF and stroke. For Canadians who can't find the words themselves to have "The Talk" with their parent(s), they can send a customizable video featuring a barbershop quartet as a gentle door opener to start "The Talk". After all, everything sounds better set to music. Once sent, they can refer to the "The Talk" Tip Sheet which provides helpful advice on how to approach this tricky conversation.
When asked which common illnesses they believe would cause the greatest strain if their parent(s) were diagnosed, strokes (47 per cent) were the second most common behind cancer (74 per cent). However, strokes (15 per cent) were last on a list of conditions Canadians said they've talked about with their parents, behind high blood pressure (41 per cent), cancer (31 per cent) and diabetes (25 per cent). What's even more telling is that more than half of Canadians with living parents (54 per cent) admit they have never heard of AF and after receiving a definition of AF, most (77 per cent) admitted they didn't know that AF leads to an increased risk of stroke.
"Strokes, including those related to AF, can be devastating for the individual and for their family and friends," says Ian Joiner, Director, Stroke, Heart and Stroke Foundation. "It's important to get Canadians talking about AF. The more people know about AF and its link to stroke, the greater chance there is of people taking action and lowering their risk."
Tips for Starting "The Talk"
To help Canadian adults initiate "The Talk" with their parent(s) about AF and its link to stroke, they can follow the steps below:
...Start early. Knowing that a person's risk of developing AF increases with each decade of life beginning at age 55, it may be best to start the conversation right around that time. Better to have "The Talk" than risk them having a stroke and wishing they had raised the topic sooner.
...Be supportive and understanding. The parent may not know how to initiate a discussion about their health for fear of causing alarm among their adult children. What's more, health concerns can become more frightening as one ages. Add to that the concept of growing more dependent on your children, and it could tongue-tie even the most talkative person. One way to break the ice is to start by the adult child letting their parent know how much they care for them - this will help set the tone for the conversation and will put them at ease.
...Use everyday opportunities to initiate "The Talk." Parents may resist a formal talk, so it's good to use everyday opportunities as an occasion to start a discussion. For example, while in the car together, adult children can bring up a recent website they visited (www.StrokeAndAF.ca), or television ad they saw about AF, and ask if they've heard about it and how it is linked to stroke. It's also important to gently suggest they raise it with their physician the next time they are in, as not everyone will experience symptoms of AF.
For more tips or to send a customized video to a loved one, Canadians can visit www.StrokeAndAF.ca.
About AF and Stroke in Canada
Approximately 350,000 Canadians are currently living with AF. People with AF are three to five times more at risk of having a stroke than those without AF, and twice as likely to die from one. After the age of 55, the incidence of AF doubles with each decade of life, and if left untreated, it can lead to stroke. After age 60, one-third of all strokes are caused by AF.
The irregular heartbeat caused by AF, which can be asymptomatic, leads to the heart pumping less efficiently. Sometimes it can pool and get stuck in the heart, which may result in the formation of a blood clot. A clot formed this way can be transported in the blood stream to the brain where it can cause a stroke. For those who survive a stroke, the disabilities can be significant, including: paralysis; loss of speech and understanding; effects on the memory, thought and emotional processes.
According to the Stroke Network, in Canada, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death with up to 15 per cent of strokes being caused by AF. Stroke costs the Canadian economy approximately $3.6 billion a year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages, and decreased productivity. In the six-month period following a stroke, the direct and indirect health care cost for each patient is about $50,000. People with non-disabling strokes spend up to $24,000 during the first six months. The acute period after a stroke accounts for 80 per cent of the overall six month costs. Families also take on a greater proportion of stroke related expenses including those associated with care giving, transportation, and lost income.
About the Survey
The survey was completed online from June 18 - 21, 2012, with a sample size of 896 Canadians aged 18+ with at least one living parent. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-3.0%, 19 times out of 20.
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