Living an Active Life after a Stroke: Nutrition
A stroke occurs when blood flow stops to an area of the brain, causing brain cell damage and dysfunction. The effects of a stroke can vary greatly from one individual to another because of differences in the severity and location of the brain cell damage. Common neurological deficits after stroke include varying degrees of weakness or paralysis, loss of coordination and balance, sensory loss and difficulty speaking or swallowing. Other symptoms can include pain, loss of memory and confusion, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Your diet is an important part of your treatment after a stroke. Eating the right kinds of foods may help you feel better and get stronger. A well balanced diet helps your body build tissues that may have been harmed and also gives you energy.
How Can Stroke Affect Nutrition?
After a stroke:
- Parts of the body that are needed for eating, such as the mouth, throat and/or hands, may not work properly
- The taste of foods may change
- Keeping a desirable body weight may become a problem
Each person’s diet has to be individualized based on the type and extent of the problems caused by a stroke. Eating after a stroke may require:
- Using special utensils
- Making sure that dentures fit well
- Eating soft foods, which may be easier to chew and swallow
Preparing Foods after a Stroke
- Flavor your meat, chicken or fish by marinating and/or cooking in fruit juices, wines, dressing or sweet and sour sauce
- Use strong seasonings such as oregano, rosemary, basil or pepper
- Try tart foods such as oranges, lemons or lemonade
- Flavor vegetables with garlic or onion
- Eat foods at room temperature to enhance the taste
- Cook foods until soft and tender
- Cut foods into small pieces or process to a puree texture
- Liquids may need to be thickened or avoided altogether
- Mix food with gravies and/or sauces
Some examples of foods that may be tolerated well are: scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, stews, mashed potatoes, creamy soups, puddings, applesauce, hot cereal, milkshakes, cottage cheese and bananas.
Maintaining a Desirable Body Weight
To make sure that your weight does not become a problem
- Eat a variety of foods
- Balance the amount you eat with the amount of energy you use through physical activity
- Choose whole wheat grains, vegetables and fruits
- Avoid high fat and fried foods
- Limit your salt and sugar intake
- Drink alcohol in moderation
REMEMBER: Each person has certain needs depending on his or her health and medical diagnosis. A Registered Dietician is part of the team of specialists who can help you achieve a satisfying and nutritionally adequate diet according to your health needs and food preferences.
For more information about stroke and other related health risks, listed below are resources available to you:
American Stroke Association
National Stroke Association