Health Information

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Stroke

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.

Adapting to Changes After a Stroke

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.

Home Modification

You may need to make modifications that allow you to function better with your abilities. Some considerations include:

  • Making items in the rooms you use accessible from chair-level height
  • Using a microwave oven more often
  • Replacing knobs and handles with levers that are easier to grasp and pull
  • Installing safety grab bars in hallways, stairwells, and in the bathroom
  • Widening doorways to their full width
  • Reversing hinges so doors open out instead of in
  • Safely securing rugs and carpets to prevent falls
  • Installing a corded phone or keeping a fully-charged cell phone with you at all times in case of an emergency
Monitor Yourself for Depression

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.

Returning to Everyday Life
  • Sexual activity —It is normal for you or your partner to feel concerned about whether it is safe for you to resume sexual activity. In general, people who have a heart attack can safely resume sexual activity after a short recovery period. To find out what is safe for you, make an appointment to discuss this issue with your doctor. You and your partner may also be referred to sexual counseling. It will allow you both to talk about your concerns and learn how to safely resume sexual activity.
  • Counseling —Support groups or one-on-one counseling can help you navigate the challenges of recovering from a heart attack. Support groups allow you to interact with others who have had a heart attack. They offer an environment of encouragement and support that will help you adjust and adhere to your treatment.
  • Be an active participant in your care —Talk to your team about symptoms or treatments that you are having difficulty with. Other treatments options may be available to help you better manage your health.

Preventing Other Strokes

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.

Quit Smoking

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.

Eat a Healthy Diet

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.

Exercise Regularly

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.

Lose Weight, If You Are Overweight or Obese

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.

Manage Any Health Conditions

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.

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

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.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2013 -
  • Update Date: 08/12/2014 -
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