In 2010, $73.7 billion was spent on medical and disability costs, out of which $1 billion went to South Carolina, part of the East Coast “Stroke Belt.” This year, 16,000 South Carolinians will be knocked down with a stroke, out of 800,000 nationwide.

In late March I was diagnosed as having had a stroke. After waiting two and one-half days for an available bed at Roper Rehabilitation Hospital, I was given eight therapy sessions daily — physical, occupational and speech. I recovered at a fast pace.

The brain remembers previous physical activities, recircuits the neurons and re-activates the muscles. Fortunately, eight years of MUSC Adult Boot Camp and Mount Pleasant Senior Center accelerated my recovery, along with home care therapy followups.

Exercise produces a brain-derived neurotropic factor, a protein which helps neurons grow vigorously and strengthens their synaptic connections, allowing better brain function. Physical activity also increases blood flow to the brain, triggers endorphins to reduce stroke depression and fortifies the immune system. Scientists know that an exercised brain is different from a sedentary brain.

I suspect I have 95 percent of my left arm back and can now run a short distance. A stroke association group e-mailed me to do the next New York City marathon with 12 weeks of training and wearing a stroke recovery jacket. My goal is to prepare for the next Cooper River Bridge Run and obtain my fourth award at age 83.

I implore you to exercise in order to lessen your possible stroke damage, to not be permanently stuck in a wheelchair, to not take 13 or more medications daily and to not stay longer at the rehab hospital at an alleged hospital cost of $4,000 daily.

You can recover 90 percent to 95 percent of your old self and some can continue to run marathons.

Thanks, Medicare.

Michael Cotsonas

Liberty Court

Mount Pleasant