Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the No. 5 cause of death. Stroke, or CVA (cerebral vascular accident) occurs when there is ischemia (blockage) or hemorrhage (rupture) of a blood vessel that starves the brain of nutrients and oxygen, causing brain cells to die.

The clinical effects of a stroke depend on the location and severity of the injury. Fast recovery is critical.

Rehabilitation should begin as soon as possible after a stroke. Acute inpatient rehabilitation done in a hospital setting is the first step of recovery as recommended by the American Heart Association.

Patients remain in an acute rehabilitation setting one to three weeks, depending on the severity of their injury. Patients receive three hours of active therapy five or more days per week. This includes physical, occupational and speech therapy.

There is 24-hour access to physician and nursing care. The medical team monitors and treats all comorbid and complicating issues during the hospitalization. A multi-disciplinary team approach individualizes the acute inpatient program to the patients’ specific needs.

After the acute inpatient rehabilitation program is complete, the vast majority of patients are able to return to a home or community setting and continue ongoing rehabilitation services.

Patients might require adaptive equipment like a cane or walker for safe mobility. Specific modifications might be recommended to their home, such as grab bars or a modified bathroom as part of the rehabilitation process to ensure a safe discharge plan.

Discharge planning begins on the first day of admission so we can ensure a smooth transition once the inpatient rehabilitation program is complete.

Prevention of a second stroke is also critical, as 25% of stroke survivors suffer a second one. High blood pressure is the No. 1 controllable risk factor for prevention. Other important factors include controlling cholesterol and diabetes, quitting smoking, losing weight, and being active.

There are lots of great opportunities in the Lowcountry to be active and healthy – golfing, tennis, biking, swimming and walking just to name a few. Regularly seeing your primary care doctor and discussing the correct treatment for risk factors is very important.

Be well, and Happy Holidays!

Dr. Vincent M. Somaio is the medical director of Encompass Rehabilitation Hospital of Bluffton.