Walking not only improves the quality of life for someone who has suffered from a stroke, but also builds endurance. In this video, Robin Miller, MD talks about how people can get started despite being a bit unstable.
Believe it or not, even infants and children can have strokes. In fact, people younger than 65 represent about 25 percent of all strokes that occur. But your stroke risk does double every 10 years, so get your risk factors in check now.
Fact: You can often keep strokes from developing by controlling risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. (If you have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions with these risk factors, you will have a higher risk of stroke.) So work with your health team to develop a diet/nutrition, exercise, and stress-reduction plan to lower your stroke risk now. An added benefit: heart disease has many of the same risk factors as stroke, so preventing strokes can also help keep you safe from heart disease.
Myth 2: You don't have to worry about having a stroke until you're over 65.
Fact: Believe it or not, even infants and children can have strokes. In fact, people younger than 65 represent about 25 percent of all strokes that occur. But your stroke risk does double every 10 years, so get your risk factors in check now.
Myth 3: A terrible headache is the most likely sign of a stroke.
Fact: The most common symptoms of a stroke are losing balance, feeling dizzy or weak, paralysis, trouble seeing (double vision or vision loss), and difficulty speaking (slurring words). Any of these symptoms, however fleeting, should be reported to your doctor right away and may require emergency care.
Myth 4: If you experience stroke symptoms that disappear after a few minutes, you're out of the woods and don't need any treatment.
Fact: These mini-strokes, called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), temporarily block the blood flow to your brain. While the danger may seem to have passed, consider these events a wake-up call. About one third of people who have had a mini-stroke eventually have a full-blown stroke, so if you've had a mini-stroke, don't ignore it. See your doctor right away, and develop a positive lifestyle plan to ward off a more serious stroke.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans died from stroke—or one person every four minutes—making it the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, almost 800,000 strokes occur in the United States.
The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
If you are at risk of having a stroke, prepare for an emergency by displaying important phone numbers prominently next to the telephone, such as the numbers of your doctor and a relative or close friend who should be contacted. It's also a good idea to keep on hand a current list of prescription medications and other drugs you use and a brief medical history to take to the hospital in the event of a stroke.
If the arteries to the brain are blocked or narrowed, reduced blood flow to the brain causes an ischemic stroke. Brain cells, which are deprived of oxygen and nutrients because of poor blood flow, begin to die -- resulting in changes in brain function, and disability or death. Another less-common type of stroke (accounting for 10 percent of strokes) is hemorrhagic stroke, which happens when there is a "brain bleed," meaning a rupture or leak in a blood vessel in the brain. High blood pressure or an aneurysm (a bulge in a blood vessel) are often to blame. Mini-strokes, or TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attacks), are similar to a stroke, but briefer -- less than five minutes -- because loss of blood flow to the brain is temporary.
If a relative, spouse, or a close friend has had a stroke, you are affected, too. You miss the person's companionship and worry about his or her well-being. But you have a vital role to play in the person's recovery. You may need to offer practical help with the person's care, and you will certainly need to be supportive when your loved one's spirits fall. Your encouragement can make the crucial difference between rehabilitation results that are mediocre and results that are successful. When you step in to help, keep the following hints in mind:
Take care of yourself by eating well, getting enough rest, and taking time to do things that you enjoy. Don't be afraid to ask for help from other family members and friends or to hire some help if you can.
Make everyone's life easier by learning about and providing assistive devices that will help your loved one do as much alone as possible.
Take advantage of support groups and other resources for caregivers.
Learn as much as you can about stroke and rehabilitation.
Support your loved one's efforts to participate in decisions about rehabilitation.
If your loved one has trouble communicating, ask your doctor or a speech therapist for advice. For example, speaking slowly and allowing plenty of time for a response can help. So can using pictures, photographs, gestures and sounds, or computerized communication devices.
Ask to attend some of the rehabilitation sessions to learn how the program works. Make sure the staff suggests activities that fit your loved one's needs and interests.
Encourage and help your loved one practice the skills learned in rehabilitation.
Find out what your loved one can do on his or her own, what he or she needs help with, and what he or she can't do at all. Then try not to do tasks that you know your loved one can do without your help.
Consider adult day care. A local adult day care program can be a good option if your loved one is living at home but has some degree of mental impairment. Adult day care can help give a few hours respite to a relative who is caring for a stroke patient at home. It would not be suitable for someone who is relatively self-sufficient.
If you have already had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) and you are capable of exercising, try to exercise at a moderately intense pace at least 30 minutes a day to reduce the risk of another stroke. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
If I had been your doctor 40 years ago, I would have told you that once a stroke kills a bunch of neurons, they can never be replaced.
However, research has shown that pessimistic judgment is just plain wrong—for many animals and almost surely for humans, too.
One of the first studies involved songbirds. During mating season, songbirds sing to mark off their territory and to attract a mate. Scientists found that during that time, the part of the birds' brains that controls singing actually grows in size because new neurons have formed.
But when it comes to thinking and memory, what's probably more important than the formation of new neurons is the formation of new connections between neurons. These connections, called synapses, make thinking possible. You could form millions of new neurons, but if they couldn't make connections to one another, they wouldn't help you think. By the same token, if you can make old neurons sprout new connections to other old neurons, you can improve thinking.
So the brain has much more regenerative potential than I was taught in medical school. That's great news, but the regeneration doesn't happen on its own. Keeping our brains active is one way to make it happen.