Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
You can go a long way towards a healthy, active future by modifying your stroke risk factors. A healthy lifestyle based on a low-salt, low-fat diet and 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise – along with your medications – is the best way to prevent another stroke down the road.
- Smoking. Quit the habit, and your stroke risks will drop dramatically. Indeed, once you have not smoked for 5 years, your stroke risk returns to that of nonsmokers.
- Blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, do whatever your doctor says to get it down and keep it down. Have it checked regularly if it has been high. A low-salt, low-fat diet and regular moderate exercise will help control hypertension.
- Cholesterol. Lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels if they are high by taking prescribed medicines (if needed) and eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables, fiber, and healthy oils.
- Diabetes. A healthy diet and exercise plan to help manage your diabetes will lower your stroke risk and increase the benefits of your diabetes medications.
- Atrial fibrillation. Taking a medication such as a beta blocker can help manage this major stroke risk.
- Alcohol consumption. A little alcohol (such as a glass of wine with dinner) can be beneficial, but alcohol or drug abuse raises your risk of stroke.
- Obesity. Get started on a weight loss program if your healthcare provider recommends it.
If you are taking blood thinners after an ischemic stroke, you will have regular blood tests to make sure your blood is coagulating at the right speed. You will be monitored by a team of healthcare professionals who will check on your progress in terms of rehabilitation and reduction of risk factors.
Disabilities after a stroke are common, and are often a continuation of your first symptoms. They may go away on their own, or you may relearn lost skills through rehabilitation. Sometimes, however, the disabilities are permanent.
Stroke patients may experience:
- Paralysis or weakness of some muscles, often only on one side of the body or face. This may result in more falls and general loss of mobility.
- Problems with talking or swallowing.
- Memory loss, confusion, difficulty understanding concepts, dementia.
- Sensory changes, including pain for no reason (central stroke pain or central pain syndrome), numbness, tingling, abnormal reactions to temperature changes.
- Depression, behavioral, and mood changes including withdrawal from social life, difficulty looking after daily self-care, malnutrition.
Caregiver and Family Assistance
If you have had a stroke or are looking after someone who has suffered a stroke, remember that this is a life-changing event. You may be feeling helpless, frustrated, and depressed. Staying involved in family and social life, in any way possible, will help to prevent or alleviate these reactions.
- Focus on skills that you have recovered rather than disabilities.
- Try to be patient and give yourself time to rest and relax.
- Continue your social and family life, even if speech or movement is difficult. Invite people over. Make your needs known. Use sign language or word cards until your speech becomes more fluent. Keep practicing.
- Join a support group.
Updated: September 2017
Posted: March 2012