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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Stroke

After a stroke, you will have to make changes to adapt to the future. You may need to change your home, arrange for care, and make lifestyle changes.

Adapting to Changes After a Stroke

A stroke can change your life in many ways. You may need to get extra care for the short or long term. Your family and friends can help you and give you support.

Home Changes

You may need to make changes that let you to function better. Think about:

  • Making items in the rooms you use easy to reach from a chair
  • Using a microwave more often to cook
  • Replacing knobs and handles with levers that are easier to use
  • Installing grab bars in hallways, stairwells, and the bathroom
  • Widening doorways
  • Having doors open out instead of in
  • Keeping rugs and carpets in place to prevent falls
  • Installing a corded phone or keeping a fully-charged cell phone with you in case of an emergency

Watch for Depression

It is common to have mood changes in the first few months after a stroke. Depression can get in the way of your recovery and put you at risk for heart problems and death. Call your doctor if you have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that stay with you for at least 2 weeks. There are many ways to treat this, such as medicine and therapy.

Going Back to Everyday Life

  • Sex —It is normal for you or your partner to worry about whether it is safe for you to have sex again. Most people who have a heart attack can have sex after a short time. Talk to your doctor about what is safe for you. You and your partner may also want to go to sex counseling. It will let you both talk about your concerns and learn how to safely go back to having sex.
  • Counseling —Support groups or one on one counseling can help you cope with your heart attack. Support groups let you to talk with others who have had a heart attack. They offer an encouraging setting and support that will help you adjust and stick to your treatment.
  • Be active in your care —Talk to your team about symptoms or treatments that you are having a hard time with. Other treatments may be able to help you better manage your health.

Preventing Other Strokes

You will also need to take steps to improve your heart health and prevent other strokes. When you have a stroke, the risk for another one is higher. Making changes can help lower that risk. You should also focus on changes that will improve your quality of life and overall well being.

Quit Smoking

Smoking can raise the amount of fatty buildup in your arteries. This can block blood flow to the brain. Nicotine can narrow blood vessels and raise your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also decrease the oxygen in your blood. If you keep smoking after your first stroke, your chance of having second one is higher. 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 not to smoke in your home or car, and stay away from places where people smoke.

Eat a Healthful Diet

A dietlow in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, and rich in whole grains, fruits, and veggies will help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight. These are 3 stroke risk factors. You should also add fish to your diet at least twice per week. They contain omega-3 fatty acids. Talk to your doctor about whether you should take supplements.

Think about talking to a dietitian who can help you with meal planning.

Workout Often

After a stroke, follow your doctor’s advice about working out. Choose exercises that you enjoy and that are safe for you. Try to stick to an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthy weight. For most people, this could mean walking briskly or doing another aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes each 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 to 3 times each week. If you are in a rehabilitation program, talk to your doctor or physical therapist first.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity is puts a person at a higher risk for stroke. Losing as little as 10 pounds can lower that risk by a lot. To lose weight, focus on a balanced diet with whole foods and workout often. Talk to your doctor about which diets or activities may be right for you. If you have trouble, talk with a dietitian who can help you plan meals and snacks. To lose weight you will have to eat fewer calories than you burn.

You can check you progress by tracking your body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 25 and above is linked to high cholesterol, hypertension, and a higher risk of heart conditions that can lead to a stroke.

Manage Any Health Problems

If you have any other health problems, such as diabetes or hypertension, follow your treatment plan. Taking any prescribed medicines can help lower the risk of more strokes. If you have questions or problems following your plan, talk to your doctor.

Limit Alcohol

Too much alcohol raises your risk of stroke. Limiting alcohol may reduce the risk. It may lower the risk of heart attack. You do not have to start drinking to get the small benefits of alcohol. Moderate drinking is 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. One drink is 12 ounces of beer or 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. Alcohol may get in the way of medicines you take.

REFERENCES:

Bushnell C, McCullough LD, Awad IA, 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 January 16, 2018.

Furie KL, Kasner SE, Adams RJ, 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 January 16, 2018.

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#.VnrupE2FPIU. Updated October 13, 2015. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Life after stroke. American Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/HealthyLivingAfterStroke/Healthy-Living-After-Stroke_UCM_308568_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed January 16, 2018.

Long-term management of stroke. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900125/Long-term-management-of-stroke. Updated June 4, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2018.

Primary prevention of stroke. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T566761/Primary-prevention-of-stroke. Updated December 4, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Stroke. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stroke. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Winstein CJ, Stein J, Arena R, et al, American Heart Association Stroke Council, Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, Council on Clinical Cardiology, and Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research.. Guidelines for Adult Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery: A Guideline for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2016 Jun;47(6):e98-e169 full-text, corrections can be found in Stroke 2017 Feb;48(2):e78 and Stroke 2017 Dec;48(12):e369.

8/12/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T143427/Stroke-acute-management: Steinke EE, Jaarsma T, Baranson SA, 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 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardRimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 1/16/2019