Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It also is a leading cause of serious and long-term disability. A stroke can happen at any time to people of any race, gender, or even age. More women than men have a stroke each year. African Americans have almost twice the risk of a first-time stroke as Caucasians.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked (blood flow in the brain stops) or ruptures. It is an emergency. Blood carries a constant supply of oxygen and nutrition that the brain requires. When the blood flow in the brain is interrupted, a part of the brain does not receive enough oxygen and nutrition. This causes damage as the brain cells begin to die within a few minutes. The amount of brain cell death depends on the severity and duration of the blockage or rupture. The functions controlled by the areas with dead or damaged brain cells may be lost or limited. This may include losing the ability to:

  • Move, walk, or use the hands
  • Speak or think
  • Control the bowel, bladder, and other body functions

Treatment for people with stroke varies. Your specific treatment will depend on the results of your physical therapist’s evaluation and on how long it’s been since your stroke. Recovery from a stroke depends on:

  • The size and location of your stroke
  • How quickly you received care
  • The severity of the brain damage at the time of your stroke
  • Your other health conditions

Your physical therapist will design an exercise and strengthening program based on tasks you need to do every day. Your physical therapist will help you regain functional skills to allow you to take part in your specific life activities.

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