While stroke is the #1 cause of long-term disability in the United States, you don’t have to be among those numbers. Even if some residual effect remains after a stroke, many people with a disability live long and fulfilling lives. Plan now to be one of these people by making lifestyle changes to avoid another stroke, by continuing the healing process long-term, and by maintaining a healthy, positive outlook. Fortunately, the steps you need to take to fulfill these three goals are intertwined, so that as you work on one, you will be building up another.
Avoid another stroke
In order to avoid another stroke, you may need to make lifestyle changes and take medications to correct the factors that brought on your stroke. About 25% of strokes are repeat strokes, but you don’t have to be a statistic.
Common factors that contribute to stroke risk are cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, smoking and substance abuse, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, stress, and poor diet. With the help of your doctor, evaluate what lifestyle changes you need to make to reduce or eliminate these factors, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet, low in simple carbohydrates and added sugar, and eliminating trans fats and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
- Developing an exercise regimen for daily movement
- Getting plenty of sleep; if you have a sleep disorder, get professional help
- Quitting smoking, excessive drinking, or the use of controlled substances (drugs)
- Losing weight
Your doctor may have some additional suggestions for your particular case. Medication alone won’t prevent another stroke. It is critical to make lifestyle changes to overcome the factors that led to the first stroke and may lead to another.
Consider adding a Neuralert stroke detection monitor to your stroke-recovery plan, at least during the period in which you are still at a high risk for stroke. Our monitor looks like a smartwatch and is connected to a state-of-the-art algorithm that can detect signs of a possible stroke within minutes and transmit a warning to your medical provider to quickly evaluate your condition. Fast action saves lives and minimizes long-term damage. The Neuralert stroke detection wristbands may provide you with the peace of mind you need while building back from your stroke.
In the first months after a stroke, intensive rehabilitation and treatments will focus on returning function to damaged areas of the brain to regain mobility, communication, and self-care skills. These treatments will begin in the hospital, within hours after the stroke.
However, many people stop rehab or exercise when they hit a plateau, thinking they have reached the extent of their improvement. But don’t stop. Your brain has an amazing power known as neuroplasticity, the ability to make new connections and use new areas of the brain for new purposes. As long as you start exercising your brain quickly after a stroke and you don’t stop, your brain will continue to respond to the demands that are placed on it. Improvement may be slower after the first few months, and you may have to compare your progress from month to month, or even year to year, but improvement should continue, as long as you keep at it.
Maintain a positive outlook
In order to have the motivation to continue to stick to your lifestyle changes, struggle through communication problems, and maintain activity to regain function, you need a positive attitude. People with post-stroke anxiety or post-stroke depression experience poor recovery of physical function and have a higher post-stroke mortality rate than those who do not experience depression or anxiety.
It is understandable to feel sad, angry, or worried about the future after having a stroke. But you must work to overcome those feelings to overcome the effects of stroke. In some cases, the emotions may actually be caused by damage to a certain part of the brain. This may make it more difficult to overcome, but at the same time, it may give you a sense of purpose – to try harder to heal your brain to conquer unwelcome emotions.
Each person is different, but there are a number of steps you should take in order to develop and maintain a healthy, positive attitude:
- Set goals: short-term, mid-term, and long-term. They should be realistic so that you can achieve them, but challenging enough that you must work to reach them. Remind yourself of them daily.
- Commit to maintaining lifestyle changes for life. Don’t go back to pizza and beer or pick up smoking again after a while. To return to old patterns is to return to stroke risk.
- Continue to take prescriptions as needed. Visit your doctor regularly to adjust medications as necessary as your condition improves.
- Maintain friendships and family ties. Isolation and loneliness bring on depression and bad habits.
- Make new friends. Join support groups or clubs associated with a hobby, such as a garden club, chess club, or walking club. Stimulate your brain, body, and communication skills at the same time, while making human connections that are so important for us to thrive.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful for each new day and find blessings all around you.
- Find meaning. Many people find that practicing religious faith, praying, and/or performing works of service provide meaning to their lives.
Recovering and thriving after a stroke is possible. It takes effort and the help of support people as you travel your journey, but many people find their lives meaningful and happy after a stroke by taking these important steps.