Stroke

Lifestyle & Management

Lifestyle Changes

We can go a long way towards a healthy, active future by modifying stroke risk factors. A healthy lifestyle based on a low-salt, low-fat diet and 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise—along with taking prescribed medications—is the best way to prevent another stroke down the road.

Smoking

Quitting the habit will reduce a person’s risk of stroke dramatically. Indeed, once a smoker has not smoked for 5 years, their stroke risk returns to that of a nonsmoker.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure should be monitored regularly. A low-salt, low-fat diet and regular moderate exercise will help control high blood pressure.

Cholesterol

Lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels can be achieved 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 diabetes will lower the risk of stroke and increase the benefits of diabetes medications.  

Atrial Fibrillation

Taking blood thinner medications such as warfarin, or direct acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) such as rivaroxaban or apixaban, can help manage this major stroke risk. Blood thinner medications require close monitoring by a healthcare provider to prevent the risk of bleeding.

Alcohol Consumption

A little alcohol (such as a glass of wine with dinner) can be beneficial, but alcohol or drug abuse raises the risk of stroke.

Obesity

If your healthcare provider recommends it, start a weight loss program to help reduce stroke risk.

Monitoring

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.

Complications

Disabilities after a stroke are common and are often a continuation of the first symptoms. The disabilities may go away on their own, or the person 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 caring for someone who has suffered a stroke, remember that this is a life-changing event. This may lead to 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 have been recovered rather than disabilities after a stroke.
  • 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.

Last Updated September 2020