- Eating a low-salt, low-fat diet.
- Doing 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise.
- Taking needed medications and monitoring their interactions and side effects. Medications may include blood thinners.
- Quitting smoking. Once a smoker has not smoked for 5 years, their stroke risk returns to that of a nonsmoker.
- Controlling high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Managing diabetes.
- Avoiding misuse of alcohol or drugs.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
Caregiver and Family Assistance
A stroke changes a person’s life. This may lead to feeling helpless, frustrated, or depressed. Staying involved in family and social life will help to prevent or resolve these problems.
- 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.
Stroke and Other Health Conditions
Up to 40 percent of people who have a stroke get delirium (a sudden change in mental abilities) during their first week after the stroke. Older adults have a higher risk of getting delirium.
Delirium can be a risk for:
- Worse mental abilities
- Longer stays in a hospital
- Higher risk of death
- More difficult rehabilitation
About half of people who survive a stroke have depression. Twenty percent have major depression and need intense treatment. Medications and talk therapy can improve depression.
Depression makes it more difficult for people to recover from a stroke. Untreated depression leads to a higher risk of death.
Vascular dementia (problems with memory and thinking), or post-stroke dementia, is the second most common type of dementia. It may happen right after a stroke, or over a period of years. This type of dementia has no cure and gets worse over time.
Having a stroke doubles the risk of having dementia. This risk increases with age.
Stroke can cause problems when a person moves about. Stroke can affect vision or balance, or weaken a person’s legs. So, the risk of falling and having problems walking get worse. Cognitive (thinking and memory) effects of stroke also can make walking worse.
People who have strokes need rehabilitation and, maybe, aids like walkers to improve their mobility and keep their independence.
Aphasia is the name for a person’s inability to speak to and understand others. About one-third of people who have had a stroke have aphasia. Older adults have a higher risk of this condition. Speech therapy can improve symptoms.
When communicating with someone with aphasia, remember that their intelligence has not changed. Some tips for improving communication include:
- Allow plenty of time for the person to finish speaking
- Do not finish their sentences
- Turn off radios, TV, or other sources of background noise
- Use other means of communicating, like gestures, drawings, facial expressions
Up to 70 percent of people who have a stroke will have trouble swallowing. This is known as dysphagia. This is a serious problem and needs to be carefully evaluated by a specially trained healthcare professional called a speech-language pathologist.
Common treatments include:
- Changing to foods that are easier to swallow
- Swallowing therapy exercises
- Breathing exercises
- Using nutrition supplements (usually drinks with extra protein and vitamins)
If a person can’t regain the ability to swallow, tube-feeding may be necessary.
Older adults with stroke tend to be less aware that they are thirsty. This is a special problem for people with cognitive problems. Dehydration can lead to constipation, kidney dysfunction, mental problems, and death.
After a stroke, up to 60 percent of hospitalized older adults have urinary incontinence (leakage of urine).
Pressure sores happen when a person doesn't move for a long period of time. The skin or soft tissue caught between the bone and a surface (such as a mattress) begins to break down. Older adults are at high risk of pressure sores because their blood circulation and skin are weaker.
Preventing and treating pressure sores involves:,
- Changing the person’s position regularly
- Eating a balanced diet
- Treating infection, pain, and depression
Stroke may cause a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.
Last Updated March 2023