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Learning About Medicines That Lower Your Risk of Another Stroke

Introduction

After you have a stroke, going home may be hard, both for you and for your loved ones. There is a lot to think about. Remember to take one day at a time.

An important part of your treatment will be to prevent another stroke. And a big part of that is taking medicines.

Some of the medicines your doctor may have you take include:

  • Aspirin or other blood thinners. They help prevent blood clots. Most strokes are caused by blood clots.
  • Statins and other medicines to lower cholesterol. High cholesterol raises your stroke risk.
  • Medicines for high blood pressure or diabetes. These conditions raise your stroke risk.

All medicines can cause side effects. So it is important to understand the pros and cons of any medicine you take. It is also important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you take any other prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, or natural health products.

Have a pill plan

You may have several pills to take every day. Having a plan for how you will remember to take them may help ease your fears and stress.

To make a pill plan, write a list of your medicines. Then write down the details for each one. Include when you started using each medicine, when you take it, how much you take each time (number of pills and milligrams in each pill), and any side effects.

Before you leave the hospital, be sure to ask questions if you don't understand or need help with your pill plan. And be sure you know who to call when you have questions at home.

Blood thinners

One of the best things you can do to prevent another stroke is to take a medicine called a blood thinner. These medicines don't really thin your blood. They work by helping to prevent blood clots. Blood clots can cause a stroke if they block a blood vessel in the brain. So when you prevent blood clots, you help prevent a stroke.

Antiplatelets are a type of blood thinner. They help keep platelets from sticking together and forming blood clots. (A platelet is a type of blood cell.)

Examples of antiplatelets include:

  • Aspirin (Entrophen, Novasen).
  • Aspirin combined with dipyridamole (Aggrenox).
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix).

Another type of blood thinner, called an anticoagulant, may be used if you also have atrial fibrillation. This is a heart rhythm problem. It raises your risk of having a stroke.

Be sure to learn how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Statins

Statins lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood. If you have too much cholesterol, it starts to build up in blood vessels. And that's how most heart and blood flow problems, including strokes, start.

Statins also reduce inflammation around the cholesterol buildup. This may lower the risk that the buildup will break apart and cause a blood clot that can lead to a stroke.

Examples of statins include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor).
  • Rosuvastatin.
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol).
  • Simvastatin (Zocor).

Blood pressure medicines

If you have high blood pressure, you may take medicines to lower it. High blood pressure damages blood vessels. Damaged vessels clog up more easily. And that can cause a stroke.

If you were taking blood pressure pills before, your doctor may have you keep taking them. Or your doctor may have you take a different type.

Blood pressure medicines may include:

  • ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).
  • Beta-blockers.
  • Diuretics (water pills).
  • Calcium channel blockers.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.