Despite Sharon's strokes, ignorance reigns [pg. 6]

Five months after the highly publicized strokes suffered by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, a survey shows that only 30 percent of Israelis over 40 know the symptoms of a "brain attack." The good news, however, is that 83% of those polled knew it was important to reach a hospital immediately, preferably within an hour of the onset of symptoms, and 79% were able to name at least one type of cerebrovascular accidents. The Geocartography Institute surveyed a representative sample of 500 Jewish adults over 40, who showed more awareness of stroke as a result of the Sharon case than they had before. Every year, some 1,300 Israelis suffer a hemorrhagic stroke, which is considered the more deadly kind. About 10% of strokes are hemorrhagic, while the rest are ischemic, caused by a blood clot in the arteries leading to or inside the brain. About half of those who have a hemorrhagic stroke (the type Sharon suffered the second time) die of it. Many of those who survive but did not receive early treatment suffer from paralysis, difficulty speaking and vision and memory problems. Wolfson Medical Center neurologist Dr. Yair Lempel said it is very important for people to be aware of the first symptoms of stroke. These include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, an arm or leg; sudden confusion in the form of difficulty in speaking or understanding; difficulty in expressing or comprehending words; slurring; sudden trouble seeing through one or both eyes or double vision; unexpected trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; an abrupt, severe headache with no known cause; or a sudden decline in consciousness. Ischemic strokes are treated with medications and angiography (declogging). Hemorrhagic stroke is treated successfully in many cases - especially in younger, healthier patients - with the drug Novoseven and surgery. TRANS FAT & APPLE-SHAPED BODIES The "apple" body shape that increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease may be accelerated by eating trans fat such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, according to new animal research at North Carolina's Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Diets rich in trans fat cause a redistribution of fat into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight even when the total dietary calories are controlled, said pathology Prof. Lawrence Rudel, who heads the lipid sciences research program. "What it says is that trans fat is worse than anticipated," Rudel added. "I was surprised." Trans fat is found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. Unlike other fats, the majority of trans fat is formed when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine by adding hydrogen. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of coronary artery disease. Kylie Kavanagh, D.V.M., presented the findings at the 66th annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association in Washington, DC. She said that over six years, male monkeys fed a western-style diet that contains trans fat had a 7.2% increase in body weight, compared to a 1.8% increase in monkeys that ate monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil. All that extra weight went to the abdomen, and some other body fat was redistributed to the abdomen. Computed tomography (CT) scans showed that the monkeys on the diet containing trans fats had dramatically more abdominal fat than those on monounsaturated fat. "We measured the volume of fat using CT," Kavanagh said. "They deposited 30% more fat in their abdomen."The monkeys all were given the same amount of daily calories, with 35% of the calories coming from fat. The amount of calories they got should only have been enough to maintain their weight, not increase it, Rudel said. "We believed they couldn't get obese because we did not give them enough calories to get fat." One group of monkeys got 8% of their calories from trans fat while the other group received those calories as monounsaturated fat. The researchers said this amount of trans fat is comparable to people who eat a lot of fried food. "We conclude that in equivalent diets, trans fatty acid consumption increases weight gain," said Kavanagh. Over the course of the study, there was a small but significant difference in weight between the two groups.