It can take weeks, months, or even years to recover from a stroke. Some people recover fully, while others have long-term or lifelong disabilities. A stroke team will work with you to manage your care. Your team may include specialists in neurology (brain, spinal cord, and nerves), rehabilitation, or mental health. You will also want to take steps to prevent another stroke and be aware of possible long-term complications. Call 9-1-1 if you have any signs of another stroke.
Healthy lifestyle changes
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes can help you recover from a stroke and may help prevent another one.
Monitor your condition
It is important to get routine medical care after your stroke. Follow your treatment plan and talk with your doctor about how often you should schedule office visits.
- Talk with your doctor about the level of care you need. Some people return home after leaving the hospital. Others receive ongoing care at another facility.
- Take all medicines as prescribed. If heart-healthy lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor may recommend medicine to control high blood pressure or cholesterol. Your doctor may also recommend aspirin or other medicine to prevent dangerous clotting that could lead to another stroke. Do not change the amount of your medicine or skip a dose.
After a stroke, you may need rehabilitation to help you recover. Rehabilitation may include working with speech, physical, and occupational therapists. Your care team may also recommend medicines to manage pain, muscle spasms, or other problems as you recover.
- Language, speech, and memory: You may have trouble communicating after a stroke. You may not be able to find the right words, put complete sentences together, or put words together in a way that makes sense. You may also have problems with your memory and thinking clearly. These problems can be very frustrating. Speech and language therapists can help you learn ways to communicate again and improve your memory.
- Muscle and nerve problems: A stroke may affect only one side of the body or part of one side. It can cause muscle weakness or paralysis, which can put you at risk for falling. Trouble using your hands, arms, and fingers is common, and training may help if you can no longer walk easily. Physical and occupational therapists can help you strengthen and stretch your muscles. They can also help you relearn how to do daily activities, such as dressing, eating, and bathing.
- Bladder and bowel problems; A stroke can affect the muscles and nerves that control the bladder and bowels. You may feel like you have to urinate often, even if your bladder is not full. You may not be able to get to the bathroom in time. Medicines and a bladder or bowel specialist can help with these problems.
- Swallowing and eating problems: You may have trouble swallowing after a stroke. Signs of this problem are coughing or choking during eating or coughing up food after eating. A speech therapist can help you with these issues. He or she may suggest changes to your eating plan, such as chopping up your food or drinking thick liquids.
Canes, braces, grab bars, special eating utensils, wheelchairs, and other devices can make it easier to keep doing your regular activities after a stroke.
Take care of your mental health
After a stroke, you may have changes in your behavior or judgment. For example, your mood may change quickly. Because of these and other changes, you may feel scared, anxious, and depressed. Recovering from a stroke can be slow and frustrating. Some people develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Talk about how you feel with your healthcare team. Your doctor may recommend steps you can take.
- Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to life after a stroke. You can see how other people manage similar symptoms and their condition. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.
- Medicines, such as antidepressants, or other treatments can improve your quality of life.
- Support from family and friends can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.
Prevent another event
Your doctor may recommend strategies to help prevent another stroke. This will depend on what caused your first stroke.
- Carotid endarterectomy: Your doctor may recommend this surgery to remove plaque buildup from inside a carotid artery in your neck if you have carotid artery disease.
- Medicine or surgery for a heart condition: Blood thinners can help reduce the risk of another stroke due to atrial fibrillation. If you have a congenital heart defect that makes it easier for blood clots to travel to the brain, your doctor may suggest surgery to fix the problem.
If you recognize any signs of stroke, call 9-1-1 right away.
Learn the warning signs of serious complications and have a plan
The most common side effect of taking blood thinners to reduce your stroke risk is bleeding. This happens if the medicine thins your blood too much. This side effect can be life-threatening. Bleeding can occur inside your body cavities or from the surface of your skin.
Know the warning signs of bleeding so you can get help right away. They include:
- Blood in your urine, bright red blood in your stools, or black tarry stools
- Bright red vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Increased menstrual flow
- Pain in your abdomen or severe pain in your head
- Unexplained bleeding from the gums and nose
- Unexplained bruising or tiny red or purple dots on the skin
Easy bruising or bleeding may mean that your blood is too thin. Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs. If you have severe bleeding, call 9-1-1.