According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the nation's No. 3 killer and the leading cause of adult disability. In the United States, someone has a stroke every 45 seconds.
A stroke can happen to anyone of any age, gender or race, though women are uniquely affected. Many of the risk factors are manageable, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, weight, cigarette smoking and heart disease.
However, risk factors such as increasing age, heredity and a prior history of strokes cannot be controlled.
The good news is that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by lifestyle changes such as exercising, drinking alcohol in moderation, and eating a healthy diet low in sodium and fat.
Strokes occur when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted by blood clots or a hemorrhage. Denied of a blood supply, brain cells begin to die off.
Unlike other cells in the body, brain cells do not replace themselves, and damage to the body and mind can be permanent. Victims of stroke may be paralyzed, unable to speak or comprehend what others are saying, suffer memory loss or be confused.
According to the National Stroke Association, recognizing the symptoms of a stroke and acting F.A.S.T. to seek lifesaving treatment is the key to saving lives. Remembering the acronym F.A.S.T. (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) will help a person to recognize if someone is suffering from a stroke.
The National Stroke Association says to:
F-ace - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A-rm - Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S-peech - Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T-ime - If you observe any of these signs, it's time to call 911.
Rehabilitation begins once a stroke patient is medically stable, and often occurs outside the hospital in post-acute rehabilitation facilities. Survivors face many challenges in recovering from the effects of a stroke and physical and occupational therapy play an important part in rehabilitation.
Re-learning activities such as feeding, grooming and bathing can take time and patience.
According to Steve Hamod, rehab director at ManorCare, the rehabilitation program at ManorCare encompasses a multi-faceted team approach under the direction of the patient's physician.
"All of our patients are assessed when they arrive, and we develop programs that are tailored to their specific needs," Hamod said. "While patients may not recover completely to their pre-stroke condition, we work to restore the highest level of functionality available."
Rehabilitation may include mobility skills such as walking or self-propelling a wheelchair to speech therapy, problem solving or socialization skills.