Strokes come in all different sizes. Some are so minor they aren't even noticed, and are only evident via brain imaging technology. Others are so severe they cause complete physical and mental impairment, or are fatal. Recovery can take a long time and requires a tremendous amount of patience and care.
The majority of strokes are called ischemic strokes and occur when arteries in the brain become narrowed and/or clogged, which reduces blood flow to the brain.
The location of the stroke will affect the physical outcome, but stroke patients usually experience physical effects on the opposite side of the brain hemisphere where the stroke occurred. Stroke patients often experience difficulty with memory, speech, and swallowing, which can further complicate recovery.
The focus of stroke recovery is to regain as much of your lost mental and physical function as possible, and to rebuild strength in the affected areas. Your recovery and treatment program will involve a dedicated staff of medical professionals who will design a therapeutic program specific to your age, health, and capabilities.
Your physical therapy will be as demanding as you are able to handle. It will involve exercises that are performed by and/or with the assistance of a therapist, to maintain tone and flexibility, and to improve muscle memory. There will also be exercises you are expected to do on your own. Depending on the severity of your stroke, physical therapy will begin in the hospital, and will continue in a rehabilitation center, an outpatient physical therapy center, and/or at home.
This is similar to physical therapy in some ways. Occupational therapists work with integrating a patient back into the day-to-day world by re-teaching them how to perform normal activities, and recommending modifications, both mechanical and physical, to ease the transition home and back to “real life.”
Your diet is critical during the recovery phase because your brain and body need all of the nutrients they can get to have a healthy recovery. If you have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, dietary changes are even more important to prevent the chance of another stroke.
Your speech therapist will give you exercises for your tongue, throat, and respiratory system to restore your ability to speak, and to help you form your thoughts into words, which can be challenging after a stroke.
A stroke is often a life changing event for the individual and the family. Your doctor may have you meet with a counselor or psychiatrist to facilitate your adjustment to your new life. This can also be beneficial for spouses and family.
Your recovery is designed to help you live life to the fullest. In many cases, strokes could have been avoided.
Pay careful attention to your health if you are at risk for a stroke due to high blood pressure, smoking, or high cholesterol. Also, know the signs and symptoms of a stroke so you can seek medical attention immediately if you, or someone near to you, demonstrates stroke symptoms.