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Stroke and Rehabilitation

A stroke is caused by either a blockage or a break in the blood supply of the brain. This could be caused by a clot, fatty build up (plaques), or calcified tissue, which breaks off from another part of your blood supply and gets stuck in one of the brain’s tiny arteries. The blockage stops blood flow to an area of the brain, eventually causing the cells in that area to die. A ruptured blood vessel can lead to similar symptoms, which are exacerbated by the pooling of blood in the brain.

A stroke can happen anywhere in the brain, so the impact of a stroke can be very different for each person. The most evident impacts of stroke are partial-paralysis, vision impairment, and memory problems.

In New Zealand stroke is the second leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability. Over 9,000 New Zealanders suffer a stroke every year, and 70% of those who survive will be left with some level of disability. As there is currently no cure– we have no ability to repair the brain after stroke – physiotherapy and rehabilitation are the only options available to help people regain movement and function of stroke-affected limbs.

Fortunately, there is increasing evidence that stroke is preventable. The most important modifiable risk factors for stroke include, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, fat intake and heavy alcohol consumption. High blood pressure is generally considered the most important modifiable risk factor for stroke. Age is also a risk factor; however, about one quarter of stroke patients are under age 65.