When you return from the hospital or care facility, you will have to make adjustments to face the challenges ahead of you. These may include changing your home, arranging for care, and lifestyle modifications.
A stroke can alter your life dramatically. You may need to arrange for extra care on a temporary or permanent basis. Your family and friends can help you through the transition and provide emotional support.
You may need to make modifications that allow you to function better with your abilities. Some considerations include:
It is very common to experience mood changes, especially within the first few months following your stroke. Depression can undermine your recovery and put you at risk for cardiovascular complications and death. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in your favorite activities that stay with you for at least 2 weeks should prompt you to call your doctor. There are several treatment options available, such as medication and/or counseling.
Another aspect of your recovery includes taking steps to improve overall cardiovascular health and prevent other strokes. Once you have a stroke, the risk for another one is higher. Making changes can help reduce that risk. In addition, focusing on changes you can control will enhance your quality of life and overall well being.
Smoking can increase the amount of fatty material that collects in your arteries, which can block blood flow to the brain. Nicotine can narrow blood vessels and lead to an increases in your heart rate and blood pressure, and decreases the level of oxygen in the blood. If you continue to smoke after your first stroke, you greatly increase your chance of having second one. When you quit, your risk of drops to that of a nonsmoker within 5 years.
Secondhand smoke is also a risk to your health. Ask people to avoid smoking in your home or car, and avoid smoky environments.
A dietlow in saturated fat , trans fat, and cholesterol, and rich in whole grains , fruits, and vegetables will help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body weight, 3 independent stroke risk factors. General recommendations include adding fish, which contains omega-3 fatty acids , to your diet at least twice per week. Talk to your doctor about whether you should take omega-3 supplements.
Consider talking to a dietitian who can help you with meal planning.
After a stroke, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for physical activity. Choose enjoyable exercises that are safe for you. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthy weight. For most people, this could include walking briskly or participating in another aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes per day.
If you have had a stroke, or have a history silent strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIA), try to exercise for at least 30 minutes 1-3 times per week. If you are in a rehabilitation program, talk to your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise.
Being overweight or obese is associated with higher risk of stroke. Losing as little as 10 pounds can significantly lower that risk. To lose weight, focus on a balanced diet with whole foods and participate in regular physical activity. Talk to your doctor about recommended diets or activity. If you have trouble, talk with a dietitian who can help you plan meals and snacks. Ultimately, to lose weight, you will have to consume fewer calories than you expend.
You can gauge you progress by monitoring your body mass index (BMI). BMI of 25 and above is associated with high cholesterol , hypertension , and increased risk of cardiovascular conditions that can lead to a stroke.
If you have any other health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, it is important to follow your treatment plan. Taking any prescribed medications is important to help reduce the risk of further strokes. If you have questions or problems following your plan, talk to your doctor.
Excessive alcohol intake raises your risk of stroke. It appears that moderate alcohol intake actually reduces the risk. Moderate drinking may lower the risk of heart attack. Moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer or 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. In addition, alcohol may interfere with your medications. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you should drink alcohol.
Bushnell C, McCullough LD, et al. Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in women: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2014;45(5):1545-1588. Available at: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/02/06/01.str.0000442009.06663.48.full.pdf. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Furie KL, Kasner SE, et al. Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack: A Guideline for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2011;42(1):227-276. Available at: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2010/10/21/STR.0b013e3181f7d043.full.pdf. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Home modifications for stroke survivors. American Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/RegainingIndependence/HomeModifications/Home-Modifications_UCM_311015_Article.jsp. Updated February 12, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
How is stroke treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stroke/treatment.html. Updated March 26, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Life after stroke. American Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/HealthyLivingAfterStroke/Healthy-Living-After-Stroke_UCM_308568_SubHomePage.jsp. Updated April 30, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Long term management of stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 6, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Prevention of stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 9, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
8/12/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Steinke EE, Jaarsma T, et al. Sexual counseling for individuals with cardiovascular disease and their partners: a consensus document from the American Heart Association and the ESC Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Applied Professions (CCNAP). Circulation. 2013;128(18):2075-2096.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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