Living an Active Life After a Stroke: Road to Recovery
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.
Road to Recovery
After patients who experience a stroke are medically stabilized, the priority becomes achieving personal fulfillment through functional independence and emotional well-being. This can be achieved through the maintenance of a healthy life style including proper nutrition, exercise and medical care.
Nutrition: Now more than ever optimal nutrition is important. Eating a healthy diet can decrease your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Understand and follow individualized dietary advice while you adhere to the general guidelines of a balanced diet.
Exercise: Almost everybody can participate in some form of exercise. Regular exercise for 15 to 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week maintains muscle and bone strength, improves heart function, enhances circulation, decreases cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and preserves vital body functions. Be sure to follow individual instructions and precautions from your rehabilitation specialist.
Emotional wellness: Stroke can challenge every aspect of human performance including your sense of emotional well-being and worthiness. Mood swings and depression can be common after stroke. Be aware of your feelings, share with others, learn to practice stress reduction and relaxation techniques. Seek the help of a professional as needed.
Staying Healthy after a Stroke
Early recognition and prompt treatment of medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease will improve functional recovery after stroke and reduce the risk of another stroke.
- Stop smoking today! You will be healthier with a reduced risk for stroke.
- Control blood pressure. Check your blood pressure regularly, take all the medications prescribed by your doctor and follow dietary recommendations.
- Manage diabetes with diet, medication and regular exercise.
- Reduce high cholesterol. Start with a well balanced, low fat diet.
- Avoid illegal drugs and excess alcohol.
- Know the warning signs of stroke. Immediate medical treatment can minimize the potential damage.
- Follow your physician’s advice.
- Take all medications exactly as prescribed.
- Get regular check-ups.
Preventing Post-Stroke Complications
After a stroke, it is important to be aware of potential problems and how to avoid them. Blood clots can develop due to weakness and immobility. The risk is reduced by exercising, walking, using blood thinners and wearing elastic stockings.
Pressure ulcers are caused by prolonged immobility and can be prevented by frequent repositioning, protective devices, proper nutrition and hygiene.
Contractures or joint stiffness can develop because of weakness or inactivity. Exercise and stretches can reduce the risk. Proper positioning and the use of a splint may be helpful.
Shoulder pain may result from partial dislocation of the shoulder joint. The risk is reduced by supporting the arm against gravity with a sling or pillow.
Depression can be caused by changes in brain chemistry and loss of functional abilities. Treatment may include counseling and antidepressant drugs.
Communication problems may persist after a stroke. The use of special devices and techniques suggested by the speech pathologist help keep the lines of communication open.
Swallowing disorders may result from weakness and loss of muscular coordination. Management may involve special swallowing techniques and appropriately textured foods.
For more information about stroke and other related health risks, listed below are resources available to you:
American Stroke Association
National Stroke Association