Stroke Recovery

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. Healthcare providers who are experts in stroke will work with you to manage your care. You may see specialists in neurology (brain, spinal cord, and nerves), rehabilitation, or mental health. You should also take steps to prevent another stroke and stay aware of possible long-term complications from your stroke. Call 9-1-1 if you have any signs of another stroke.

Watch your condition

It is important to get regular medical care after a stroke. Follow your treatment plan and talk with your healthcare provider about how often you should schedule office visits.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about how much 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 healthcare provider may talk to you about medicine to control high blood pressure or cholesterol. They may also recommend aspirin or other medicines to prevent dangerous clotting that could lead to another stroke. Do not change the amount of your medicine or skip a dose without talking to your provider.


After a stroke, you may need rehabilitation to help you recover. Rehabilitation may include working with speech, physical, and occupational therapists. Your healthcare provider may also recommend medicines to manage pain, muscle spasms, or other problems.

  • 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.
  • 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 of 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 getting dressed, eating, and bathing.
  • Swallowing and eating problems: You may have trouble swallowing after a stroke. You may cough or choke during eating or cough up food after eating. A speech therapist can help you with these issues. They may suggest changes to your eating habits, 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 notice changes in your behavior or judgment. For example, your mood may change quickly. These and other changes can make you feel scared, anxious, and depressed. Recovering from a stroke can be slow and frustrating. Some people develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and psychotic disorders, including hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized speech.

Talk about how you feel with your healthcare provider. They may suggest steps you can take to feel better.

  • 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 provider 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 healthcare provider may talk to you about strategies to help prevent another stroke. This will depend on what caused your first stroke.

  • Carotid endarterectomy: This surgery removes 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 lower the risk of another stroke from atrial fibrillation. Statin therapy has been found to be protective against stroke, but it should not be used by pregnant people. If you have a congenital heart defect that makes it easier for blood clots to travel to the brain, your provider may suggest surgery to fix the problem. An example of a condition that can be treated this way is a small opening in the heart’s upper two chambers (called a patent foramen ovale). Closing this opening may reduce the risk of a second ischemic stroke in people between the ages of 18 and 60.

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 lower 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 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
  • Heavier 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 healthcare provider right away if you have any of these signs. If you have severe bleeding, call 9-1-1.

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