A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when there is a disruption of the blood supply to the brain. A stroke can, therefore, either be caused by a lack of blood supply – a blockage, such as a thrombosis or embolism, or it can be caused by too much blood supply causing a vessel to burst, for example a haemorrhage. The result of both of these causes is cell death within the brain due to insufficient blood and oxygen being delivered to these cells. This causes impaired function of the central nervous system. The degree of impairment depends on the number of vessels affected, as well as the area of the brain affected.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the following risk factors may lead to increased chances of having a stroke:
· High blood pressure
· Coronary artery disease
· High cholesterol
The following signs may be present following a stroke (ACSM):
· Impaired motor and sensory function on one side of the body
· Impaired sight
· Impaired speech
· Mental confusion
· Impaired ability to control voluntary movements
One’s response time to a possible stroke can make a significant difference to the person’s prognosis. The American Stroke Association sums this up with the following image:
Exercise is extremely important in managing the risk factors for stroke – maintaining a healthy weight, improving blood pressure and cholesterol, and managing diabetes and heart disease.
Biokinetic therapy (specialised exercise therapy) is particularly important following a stroke, so that as much motor function is regained as possible. Some people may recover completely, others will not. The Biokinetic therapy will improve the chances of regaining full motor function. It is, therefore, essential to consult a Biokineticist as soon after the stroke as possible, so that exercise rehabilitation can start. This therapy will focus on regaining strength and motor control in order to be able to perform activities of daily living.