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Stroke: Care Instructions

A clot blocking blood flow to an area of the brain.

Overview

A stroke is damage to the brain that occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot. Without blood and the oxygen it carries, part of the brain is damaged. The part of your body controlled by that part of your brain may not function properly now.

The brain is an amazing organ that can heal itself to some degree. The stroke you had damaged part of your brain. But other parts of your brain may take over in some way for the damaged areas.

Your doctor will talk with you about what you can do to prevent another stroke. You can help by managing other health problems that raise your risk, such as atrial fibrillation or high blood pressure. Have a heart-healthy lifestyle which includes being active, eating healthy foods, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking. You may also take medicine that prevents blood clots.

Enter a stroke rehabilitation (rehab) program if your doctor recommends it. Stroke rehab is training and therapy to help you recover, prevent problems, and relearn how to do everyday things you have not been able to do since your stroke. The focus will depend on how the stroke has affected your ability to do the things you want and need to do.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Attend stroke rehabilitation (rehab) if your doctor recommends it. Your rehab plan will be based on your goals and how the stroke affected you.
  • You will get instructions on how to manage specific problems that you might have because of the stroke.
  • Manage other health problems that raise your risk of another stroke. These include atrial fibrillation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • Have a heart-healthy lifestyle.
    • Don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
    • Limit alcohol to 3 drinks a day for men and 2 drinks a day for women.
    • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
    • Be active. Ask your doctor what type and level of activity is safe for you.
    • Eat heart-healthy foods. These include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains. Limit sodium and sugar.
  • If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • You may take a few medicines to help lower your risk of another stroke. These include:
    • Blood pressure medicine such as an ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitor, angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARBs), or diuretic.
    • Cholesterol medicine such as a statin.
    • Aspirin or another blood thinner to prevent blood clots.
  • If your doctor prescribed a blood thinner, be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medicines or natural health products without talking to your doctor first.
  • If you take hormonal birth control or hormone therapy, talk to your doctor about whether they are right for you. They may raise the risk of stroke in some people.

For caregivers

  • Make the home safe. You may get advice from the stroke rehab team about what changes might be needed. Here are some examples. Set up a bedroom that does not require climbing stairs. Be sure the bathroom is on the same floor. Move throw rugs and furniture that could cause falls. Make sure that the lighting is good. Put grab bars and seats in tubs and showers.
  • Provide transportation until they can drive again.
  • Find out what they can do and what they need help with. Try not to do things that they can do on their own. Help them learn and practice new skills.
  • Visit and talk with them often. Try doing activities together that you both enjoy, such as playing cards or board games. Encourage other people to visit too.
  • Take care of yourself. Here are some tips that might help. Do not try to do everything yourself. Ask the stroke rehab team for help. Ask friends and family members to help. Eat well, get enough rest, and take time to do things that you enjoy. Keep up with your own doctor visits, and make sure to take your medicines regularly. Join a local support group. Find out if you qualify for home health care visits to help with rehab or for adult daycare.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have signs of another stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
    • Fainting.
    • A seizure.
    Call 911 even if these symptoms go away in a few minutes.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new symptoms that may be related to your stroke, such as falls or trouble swallowing.

Watch and call if:

  • You have been feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless, or you have lost interest in things that you usually enjoy.
  • You have anxiety or fear that affects your life.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

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.