|After a Stroke: The Expanding Role of Exercise in Promoting Recovery|
“Rehabilitation can have some impact even months to years after a stroke,” said Ralph Sacco, past president of the American Heart Association-American Stroke Association. “The brain can relearn and recover. Physical activity can open up some new pathways.”
Yet the length of formal rehabilitation is largely determined by medical insurance coverage, according to advocates who want longer programs for stroke survivors who need them. When rehab ends, a continued independent exercise program may help for some.
Middle-aged women and stroke
Brott’s case is not as uncommon as it may seem. Though they still comprise a tiny proportion of all people who have strokes, nearly 2 percent of women ages 35 to 54 reported suffering a stroke in the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which covered 1999 to 2004. That is up from just half of 1 percent in the same survey a decade earlier. The stroke rate for women in this age group has tripled, while the rate for men has remained the same.
No one knows why so many relatively young women are having strokes, but the obesity epidemic is the prime suspect. When USC neurologist Amytis Towfighi looked more closely at the national health survey data, she saw that the proportion of women with abdominal obesity had risen from 47 to 59 percent in a decade.
The 795,000 strokes that Americans suffer annually vary widely in severity and location in the brain, with effects that range from death to little or no impairment. Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States; women tend to survive more often than men but are more likely to be disabled, according to Towfighi.