Gergana Doncheva

In the hectic daily life, no one seems to think about the health dangers that grow with age. Stroke is a life-threatening condition that affects many people of different active ages.

Although the majority of people who suffer a stroke are over the age of 60, up to 10 percent of all strokes occur in those under the age of 45. Babies, high school students and young people can also have a stroke. Stroke can develop unexpectedly.

Naturally, the question arises what to do to reduce the risk of stroke, what is the right behavior in life to avoid a possible "encounter" with the unwanted condition.


One of the surest ways to prevent this insidious illness is to make healthy lifestyle changes. A healthy lifestyle is a good way to protect yourself not only from stroke, but also from many other unwanted conditions.

According to information uploaded on the website of the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk factors for stroke are similar to those for coronary heart disease and other vascular diseases. Effective prevention strategies include targeting key modifiable factors: hypertension, elevated lipids, and diabetes. The leading risks due to lifestyle are: smoking, low levels of physical activity, unhealthy diet and obesity. Combinations of such prevention strategies have been shown to be effective in reducing stroke mortality even in some low-income settings.

The US Department of Health and Human Services outlines the following most important steps you can take to reduce the risk of stroke:
• Maintain blood pressure within normal levels;
• If you smoke, quit;
• Keep your blood sugar within normal levels;
• If you have a heart disease, treat it;
• Keep cholesterol levels within normal levels;
• Maintain a healthy weight;
• Become a more active person, move;
• Eat healthy.

Making these health changes can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.


The three most frequently asked questions in Google about reducing the risk of stroke are:
1. What foods reduce the risk of stroke?
2. How can you prevent stroke naturally?
3. Can drinking water help prevent stroke?

And here are the answers about the topic:
According to Geisinger (a health and wellness organization focused on promoting better health through primary care, specialized medicine, etc.) foods high in potassium, such as sweet and white potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, prunes, melons and soy, can help maintain healthy blood pressure, which is the leading risk factor for stroke. Magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, are also associated with a lower risk of stroke.


According to Harvard Medical School, you can prevent a stroke naturally by eating four to five cups of fruits and vegetables each day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy products. They advise you to do more exercises - at least 30 minutes of activity a day and if possible more. Smoking cessation is recommended.
Regular drinking of water prevents dehydration. This can play a role in keeping the blood less viscous, which in turn prevents stroke.

It is good to know that rehabilitation after a stroke is a race against time, and the sooner treatment is started by specialists (in a specialized rehabilitation hospital), the better the chances of restoring motor functions. Recovery can also be done in a rehabilitation center, and physiotherapy is an integral part of the healing process. You can learn more about treatment after a stroke in a detailed article that presents how to treat a stroke.

Photo: Personal archive of Gergana Doncheva


  1. Website of Clinica Bg. [cited 2 February 2021]. Available from: <>.
  2. Website of Geisinger. [cited 2 February 2021]. Available from: <>.
  3. Website of Harvard Medical School. [cited 2 February 2021]. Available from: <>.
  4. Website of [cited 2 February 2021]. Available from:  <>.
  5. Website of  University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. [cited 2 February 2021]. Available from: <,the%20signs%20and%20react%20quickly>.
  6. Website of US Department of Health and Human Services. [cited 2 February 2021]. Available from:  <>.
  7. Website of World Health Organization. [cited 2 February 2021]. Available from:  < >.
  8. Website of Rehabilitation hospital SERDIKA. [cited 3 February 2021]. Available from: < > .

Read: 7433 times                                                  © Fashion Lifestyle Magazine, issue 110, February 2021


*Interview with Ph.D. Emil Yankov - Executive Director of the largest rehabilitation center in Bulgaria - "Serdika" and a founder of the first Center for Robotic Rehabilitation in Bulgaria

Emil Yankov is a third generation medical professional. He graduated from the Technical University (Sofia), Medical University (Sofia) and Sheffield University in the UK.His professional career began 22 years ago when he startedworking withmaintenance and repair of medical equipment. Subsequently, he opened his own chain of SPA and wellness centers "Beauty Med SPA". He also provided business consulting for other spa centers.

In 2014 a big dream of his come true when the doors of Rehabilitation Hospital "Serdika" (Sofia) opened. Late in 2018 - the Residence for Elderly "Serdika" (Bankya) was established.  By 2020, Serdika became the largest rehabilitation hospital in Bulgaria, and in the same year the first Robotic Rehabilitation Center in Bulgaria was launched – “Serdika”.
Emil is keenly interested in development of technological solutions that help people with disabilities, as well as in investments in the field of health care and development.

Where is your interest in rehabilitation coming from and how did you decide to develop this sector of medical services in Bulgaria?
While I was actively involved in wellness and SPA centers, I observed how the medical field was developing in the direction of recovery and care for severe conditions, such as stroke, the consequences of accidents, after surgery. Then I realized the real need for a universal place where all of the necessary medical services and procedures for proper recovery can be found. I have noticed that abroad they could medically treat children with cerebral palsy, people with Parkinson's disease, adults with complications after a stroke any neurological trauma, cancer, as well as caring for patients who cannot be medically treated in home environment.
My desire to provide a better quality of life in Bulgaria inspired me and encouraged me not to give up this great idea - to have all these medical services under one roof.

In your hospital we see patients being treated after a stroke, hip replacement, cerebral palsy, head and spine injuries. How did you come to lung rehabilitation after COVID-19?
We have been investing in health and a better quality of life for years, so since the beginning of the existence of “Serdika” Rehabilitation Hospital we have been developing the qualities of my team - we send them periodically to various trainings around the world to improve their professional skills. Rehabilitation is our strength, we are the best at it and we know that we will be useful in pulmonary rehabilitation too. We have the necessary equipment for this type of rehabilitation as well as certified specialists to implement rehabilitation programs for clearing the lungs, so focusing on this type of medical service was the logical continuation of our activity, our mission.

What are the most common symptoms of patients after COVID-19 who turn to your hospital?
Feeling of not getting enough air, coughing and difficulties while breathing are among the most recurring complaints, along with constant urges to sputum, tension in the lungs, shortness of breath and feeling tired after short physical activities, such as climbing stairs.
We also have phone calls from people who have had bronchopneumonia, for example, without contact with the coronavirus. In such cases, the symptoms are no different and the rehabilitation program for clearing the lungs is successfully applied.

What does pulmonary rehabilitation consist of after COVID-19 and for whom is it suitable?
The procedures are suitable for people after COVID-19, bronchopneumonia and other conditions with symptoms that I have already mentioned, regardless of age. Depending on the specific condition of the patient, an individual rehabilitation program is tailored . That may contain various components:
• vibration (percussion) massage - it improves the circulation in the chest area, vibrations are formed, which help the secretions stuck in the bronchi to be released.
• Inhalations in combination with medical treatment if necessary - this is a classic method that has been proven to facilitate breathing and have a lasting effect.
• Walking exercises are performed under the supervision of our specialist, who encourages the patient to take the correct position of the body, controls the intensity of the exercise itself, and this leads to improved breathing.
• Cycling - here the goal is also to improve breathing through accurately assessed intensity and body position.
• Purposeful physical exercises combined with proper breathing
• Quartz lamp - the advantages of the quartz lamp and the benefits of its use have been known to people for decades. The quartz lamps we have in the hospital are for professional use and the effect is noticeable after the first procedure.
Of course, the team also works on the emotional state of patients - to keep the positive spirit of the people who have trusted us is just as important as to cure them.

What packages are available for recovery after COVID-19?
We decided to make it easier for patients by offering two different lung recovery packages, depending on how severe their condition is: a 14-day and a 20-day package.
The packages include accommodation, three meals a day with a healthy menu, twice rehabilitation every day, twice a doctor's visit a day, light therapy, vibration massages, inhalations and exercises according to the individual rehabilitation program.
More information can be found on our website

Is outpatient treatment of the effects of COVID-19 possible?
It all depends on whether the patient's condition allows it. This should be clarified with the team during the free examination-consultation during the admission for this type of rehabilitation. It is individual.

How can people learn more about pulmonary rehabilitation after coronavirus according to their specific condition?
We have established a national toll free line 0700 70 112 (in Bulgaria), which is available every day from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm, including weekends. When they call this phone, patients receive answers to their health questions related to our competencies, as well as services that make it as easy as possible for them before admission.

What are the expected results?
Rehabilitation after COVID-19 is essential for the general condition of the person and therefore it is not surprising that there is a tendency for improved general physical condition, significantly reduced difficulty breathing, sputum also decreases, improved mood and reduced anxiety.
The study we do among patients who have undergone our rehabilitation program shows a long-lasting effect after the completion of the rehabilitation process.

Do you work with the National Health Insurance Fund and is there a clinical pathway for this rehabilitation?
Yes, we work with the NHIF on all clinical pathways for rehabilitation. There is no clinical pathway for lung rehabilitation after coronavirus, so we do it by paid admission.

Will you continue to offer pulmonary rehabilitation even after the world forgets about COVID-19?
Of course, yes - lung rehabilitation, as well as the prevention of lung diseases are the key to a better quality of life, especially in a city like ours (Sofia, Bulgaria), where the air is not always as clean as we would like it to be. Pay attention to the levels of pollution during the winter months. For example, imagine how these harmful substances systematically accumulate in our lungs and imperceptibly affect us.
Serdika Hospital and Serdika Residential Residence have joined the national network of air pollution measuring devices Our measuring cells are under numbers # 42864 and # 46072.

Interview by Gergana Doncheva
More information about pulmonary rehabilitation after coronavirus can be found at and by calling 0700 70 112, 0884 500 666.

Read: 7546 times                                                  © Fashion Lifestyle Magazine, issue 110, January 2021

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