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Stroke: How to Prevent Another One

British Columbia Specific Information

A stroke is a brain injury caused by blood flow to the brain being blocked, or bleeding in the brain. After having a stroke you may experience physical, mental and emotional complications. These could include: weakness on one side of the body, joint pain, trouble walking, speech and language difficulties, trouble with memory or focusing, etc. Stroke rehabilitation programs can help you continue to live as independently as possible after a stroke, and to learn to adjust to the physical and mental changes caused by your stroke.

To find stroke recovery and rehabilitation programs in your area, search HealthLinkBC's FIND Services and Resources Directory. For more information on stroke recovery, visit Heart and Stroke Foundation or Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia.

For more information on exercising to prevent a stroke or rehabilitation exercises after a stroke, call 8-1-1 to speak with a qualified exercise professional Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm PST. You may also call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Topic Overview

After you've had a stroke, you may be worried that you could have another one. That's easy to understand. But the good news is that there are things you can do to reduce your risk of having another stroke. Taking medicine, doing stroke rehabilitation, and making healthy lifestyle changes can help.

Take your medicines

You'll need to take medicines to help prevent another stroke. Be sure to take your medicines exactly as prescribed. And don't stop taking them unless your doctor tells you to. If you stop taking your medicines, you can increase your risk of having another stroke.

Some of the medicines your doctor may prescribe include:

  • Aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines to prevent blood clots.
  • Anticoagulants to prevent blood clots, especially for people who have atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat).
  • Statins and other medicines to lower cholesterol.
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) to lower blood pressure.

Manage other health problems

You can help lower your chance of having another stroke by managing other health problems that you might have. Health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, can increase your risk of a stroke.

If you have any of these health problems, you can manage them by making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating better, and being active. If lifestyle changes don't help enough, you also may need to take medicines to manage these conditions.

Take part in a stroke rehabilitation program

Taking part in a stroke rehabilitation (rehab) program can help you learn how to reduce your risk of having another stroke. A stroke rehab program is designed for you and is supervised by doctors and other specialists.

This type of program helps you to regain skills you lost or to make the most of your remaining abilities after a stroke. It also helps you take steps to prevent another stroke. In the program, a team of health professionals provides education and support to help you build new, healthy habits.

In stroke rehab, you'll learn how to manage any other health problems that you might have, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and depression. You'll also learn how to exercise safely, eat a healthy diet, and quit smoking if you smoke. You'll work with your team to decide what lifestyle choices are best for you.

If your doctor hasn't already suggested it, ask him or her if stroke rehab is right for you.

Make healthy lifestyle changes

Healthy lifestyle changes can help lower your risk of having another stroke. And they may help you feel better and live longer. Here are some things you can do:

  • Quit smoking, and avoid second-hand smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. Medicines and counselling can help you quit for good.
  • Be active. Ask your doctor what type and level of activity is safe for you. Your doctor may recommend 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. If you are in a stroke rehab program, your rehab team can make an exercise program that is right for you.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. These include fruits, vegetables, high-fibre foods, and foods that are low in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Eat fish at least 2 times each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes. These conditions make a stroke more likely.
  • Limit alcohol. If you're a man, have no more than 3 standard drinks a day on most days and no more than 15 drinks a week. If you're a woman, have no more than 2 standard drinks a day on most days and no more than 10 drinks a week.

It's also important to:

  • Get an influenza (flu) vaccine every year.
  • Ask for help if you think you are depressed.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Kernan WN, et al. (2014). Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in patients with stroke and transient ischemic attack: A guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, 45(7): 2160–2236. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000024. Accessed July 22, 2014.
  • Winstein CJ, et al. (2016). Guidelines for adult stroke rehabilitation and recovery: A guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, published online May 4, 2016. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000098. Accessed June 3, 2016.

Credits

Current as of:
March 4, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Richard D. Zorowitz MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation