AUSTIN -- We've all been told that proper exercise is key to good health. That's especially true for stroke victims. Doctors say the first month after a stroke is when patients are at the greatest risk for a second stroke. One local rehabilitation hospital encourages its stroke victims to take a step toward better health -- in fact, 6,000 steps every day.
Austin's Melanie Typaldos has been featured on television before. Her love for her 100-plus pound capybara was the focus of that attention.
This time, Typaldos is the focus of the attention. The 58-year-old suffered a stroke in October. Little did she know that at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital, her road to recovery would require 6,000 steps a day.
"When Dr. Lee first suggested to me that I was supposed to walk 6,000 steps per day, I thought, 'This is crazy,'" Typaldos said.
Robert Lee, M.D., is the Medical Director of Stroke Rehab at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital.
"Three months after a stroke, many stroke patients are still in a wheelchair," said Lee.
Lee said that many stroke patients simply aren't getting enough cardiovascular exercise.
"We know cardiovascular risk factors. The first month after a stroke, the survivors actually die from cardiac disease," said Lee. "The 6,000 step program is something that will increase their activity level and decrease their risk of future strokes and heart attacks."
Typaldos said that while she never dreamed she could walk that far at that point in her recovery, she knew her life may have depended on it.
"When I heard it could help prevent a future stroke, I was like 'Yeah, I will do it,'" Typaldos said. "I would do anything to avoid another stroke. So the first day I did it, I think I got 3,000 steps, and I was exhausted afterward, but I kept at it. I was able to do 6,000 steps in a few days. Then, I went to 7,000. It has made feel tremendously better."
And her capybara feels better too, now that its human friend is back home and in the pool.
The American Heart Association recommends everyone to try to take 10,000 steps a day.
Lee said 6,000 steps is a goal stroke patients can reach and is the amount studies have shown to be effective when reducing stroke.