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    "However, individual risk factors are highly variable," Black-Schaffer says. "That's why it's vital to talk with your doctor to understand your specific risk factors and develop a plan to minimize them."

    High blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke and the biggest risk factor for stroke. Having heart disease, high blood cholesterol, or diabetes also puts you at risk. Lifestyle factors that put you at risk include smoking cigarettes, obesity, physical inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption, and illicit drug use.

    3. What is the stroke recovery process?

    Although your stroke rehabilitation program will be tailored to your specific needs, most people follow a similar path. You'll begin to do assisted exercises in the hospital once your medical condition has stabilized.

    From there, you may go to an in-patient rehab facility where you will receive intensive therapy to help you become more independent. Once you are able to return home, you may receive outpatient therapy or home therapy to help you recover as much as possible.

    Formal rehabilitation takes place for about three to six months. But studies have shown that stroke patients who continue to practice the skills they learned in rehabilitation continue to see progress long after a stroke has occurred.

    4. How long will my recovery from stroke take?

    Stroke recovery is different for every patient. Although some people with a mild stroke recover quickly, for most stroke survivors, recovery is a lifelong process.

    "While the biggest gains will be made in the first three months after a stroke, patients can continue to recover ... even years later," Black-Schaffer says. "The key is to get into a daily pattern of exercise."

    5. Am I at risk for depression after a stroke?

    Becoming depressed after a stroke is very common. So ask your doctor about the symptoms of depression so that you and your caregivers know what to look for. Post-stroke depression is thought to be caused in part by biochemical changes in the brain. It's also a completely normal reaction to the losses caused by a stroke. Whatever the reason, treatment is essential. Fortunately, depression can be effectively treated with medication and/or counseling.

    Recovery Tips

    See key ways to help regain the use of your arm after a stroke.
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