A stroke is a brain injury. A stroke can be caused by anything that stops or slows down blood flow to part of the brain. Blood can be kept from reaching brain tissue when a blood vessel gets blocked or bursts. The lack of blood flow can damage the brain. You may have trouble using the part of the body that is controlled by the part of the brain that is damaged. Depending on what part of your brain was hurt, a stroke can affect your senses, movement, or speech. It can make one side of your body weak or unable to move. It can change your behavior, thoughts, memory, or ability to speak and understand speech.
Stroke rehabilitation (rehab) helps you recover from the stroke and learn to manage the problems resulting from the stroke. You will learn how to manage new disabilities so you can be as independent as possible. Rehab can start as soon as a stroke is over and your condition is stable. This is usually within days after the stroke.
What will I do in rehab?
Usually, you will start rehab within 24 to 48 hours after a stroke. What you do in rehab depends on what you need to relearn. You may work on skills such as:
Feeding, grooming, bathing, and dressing yourself
Getting around, such as walking or using a wheelchair
Thinking, remembering, and problem solving
Depending on how bad the stroke was, you may have rehab treatments in:
The hospital or a skilled nursing facility (inpatient rehab)
A rehab clinic (outpatient rehab)
Your home (usually called home health care)
You will learn to use devices that make some tasks easier, like gripping objects and getting around.
How long will recovery take?
How much you recover from a stroke, and how long it takes, depends on how much your brain was damaged and how much you are able to do during rehab. Your brain cannot replace the brain cells that were damaged by the stroke. However, different parts of your brain may be able to take over doing some of the things that the damaged part of your brain used to do. When rehab starts early, you are more likely to recover more abilities. Most of the recovery that is possible will happen within 6 to 12 months. However rehabilitation and recovery can continue throughout your life.
You may recover fully from a stroke, or you may have some permanent loss of ability. Most stroke survivors don’t need help with everyday activities like eating, dressing, using the toilet, and bathing. Problems with these activities are more likely if you have had more than 1 stroke or if you have a large stroke. If you need help with everyday activities, family members or other caregivers can be taught how to help take care of you.
How can I take care of myself and keep from having another stroke?
Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for medical treatment and rehab after a stroke. Itâ€™s very important to follow your healthcare providerâ€™s advice, which may include lifestyle changes, to keep from having another stroke.
Take all medicines as directed by your provider. It is very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Without the medicine, your symptoms may not improve or they may get worse. Talk to your provider if you have problems taking your medicine or if the medicines don’t seem to be working. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all of the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.
Eat a healthy diet. Avoid foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat.
Stay fit with the right kind of exercise for you. Be sure to exercise the parts of your body that are affected by the stroke as much as possible. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Try to keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight.
If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Alcohol can make leg weakness and balance problems worse.
Keep careful records of your blood pressure and show these records to your healthcare provider. Keeping high blood pressure under control is an important part of preventing another stroke.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-05-28 Last reviewed: 2014-05-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Stroke: Life After a Stroke: References
Smith, SC Jr, Allen, J, Blair, SN, et al. AHA/ACC guidelines for secondary prevention for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2006 update endorsed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. J Am Coll Cardiol 2006; 47:2130.
Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2nd ed. 2008, Elsevier; Chapter 149 â€“ Stroke. Accessed via MDConsult, 12/25/2011).