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Stroke rehabilitation can help improve quality of life

Posted at 7:36 AM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 08:44:08-05

Each year close to 800,000 people in the United States have strokes, and it is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help you relearn skills you lost when a stroke affected part of your brain.

Stroke rehabilitation can help you regain independence and improve your quality of life. That is what San Patricio County Commissioner Gary Moore has come to realize after having a massive stroke that shut down the left side of his body.

“Having a stroke just sets you back tremendously,” Moore said. “None of your muscles want to do what they used to do. I am fortunate that I didn’t lose any of the brain injury memory lapse.”

“Most stroke patients have difficulty with walking, movement with their shoulders, and lower extremities. So depending on the patient, we set our goals, but it is usually to increase their independence so they can walk on their own and be able to do their daily activities independently,” said Physical Therapist Director Vera Chavez.

Moore, 74, says the worst part was not knowing if he was still going to be able to do things he is used to doing.

“It is frustrating, but I still get everything done,” he said. “I just don’t get it done as fast as I used to do it.”

It wasn’t until he started his physical therapy at Humpal Physical Therapy that he began to have hope. He credits that hope to the doctors, nurses and therapists who worked with him on his journey.

“I am lucky this facility pushes me almost every week or 10 days and gives me something new to challenge me with … in what I was doing before so I am happy to be here,” said Moore.

Researchers have found that people who participate in a focused stroke rehabilitation program perform better than most people who don’t have stroke rehabilitation.

“It is vital to get into rehabilitation as soon as your doctor clears you. The faster you get in, the better the prognosis,” said Chavez.

“Be a stroke survivor, not a stroke victim. Get out and do something; walk, work, have something to do. Come especially to these rehab facilities because they know what they are doing, and they can see what you need better than you do, and they will work with you,” said Moore.

Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability, and it reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

During a stroke, a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot. Nerve cells in the affected area of the brain can be damaged within minutes and can die within hours. It is estimated that during a stroke, 2 million brain cells die every minute.

Strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death among Americans behind heart disease and cancer, and are the No. 1 cause of adult disability, according to the National Stroke Association. More than 790,000 people suffer from strokes each year.

What Causes A Stroke?

An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. A blood clot can develop in a narrowed artery that supplies the brain or can travel from the heart (or elsewhere in the body) to an artery that supplies the brain. About 80 percent of strokes are ischemic.

Blood clots can be caused by other body issues that affect the flow of blood, including:

• Hardening of the arteries

• Irregular heart rhythms

• Certain heart valve problems, diseases or infections

• Congenital heart defects

• Vasculitis

• Heart attack

The other 20 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic — strokes that occur when a blood vessel breaks and blood leaks into the brain.

What Are The Symptoms?

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially if it occurs on one side of the body

• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech

• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or double vision

• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination

• Sudden severe headache with no known cause

• Drowsiness, nausea, or vomiting

How a stroke patient is affected depends on the location in the brain where the stroke occurs. For example, someone who has a small stroke may experience only minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be paralyzed on one side or lose their ability to speak, according to the National Stroke Association.

Anyone who has symptoms of a stroke needs emergency care. The sooner medical treatment begins after symptoms are noticed, the fewer brain cells may be damaged.

Can You Prevent A Stroke?

Up to 80 percent of all strokes are preventable, according to the National Stroke Association. The basics of preventing a stroke are similar to the steps to having a healthy heart, including exercising regularly, not smoking, keeping cholesterol and blood pressure down and keeping a diet low in sodium and fat.

A stroke can happen at any stage of life, even in fetuses and children, but it becomes more likely with age. Stroke occurs most often in people over age 65.

How Do Doctors Treat Strokes?

Strokes are treated in several different ways, including by surgery, medications, hospital care and rehabilitation. Strokes caused by blood clots might be treated with a surgery to remove artery plaque or an angioplasty surgery.

A drug that dissolves blood clots might also be used. Called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, the drug dissolves the clot and can restore blood flow to the brain. TPA is usually effective only if administered promptly.