Everyone recovers differently from stroke. Some people recover more easily and quickly than others. It depends what type of stroke you have had, what part of your brain was affected, and what damage was caused there.
There is a lot of support for stroke available, and you are likely to have a team of healthcare professionals to help you recover. For example, if you are left with difficulties walking or moving, balance or coordination problems, you may benefit from seeing a physiotherapist. For more information, read the Stroke Association leaflet Physiotherapy after stroke.
If you are experiencing mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, your GP may be able to refer you to a counselling service. If you have difficulty communicating or swallowing, a speech and language therapist will be able to support you.
Stroke Association provides a wealth of information about the after effects of stroke and the treatments that may help.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which consequently reduces the risk of stroke. For a person who has experienced stroke, following a healthy stroke diet is important to reduce the risk of this happening again.
A healthy diet for stroke survivors should aim to reduce fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol, and increase the amount of vitamin rich fruit and vegetables, proteins and fibre. Consuming high levels of trans fats and saturated fats increases a person’s risk of developing atherosclerosis, which can lead to stroke or heart conditions such as angina. Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which increases your risk of damage to the blood vessels, which may increase your risk of stroke in the long term.
For more stroke diet advice, download the Stroke Association Healthy Eating and Stroke leaflet.
The NHS website provides lots of healthy eating information, recipes and weight loss advice you may find helpful.
Some people choose to take vitamin and mineral supplements for stroke recovery or because they believe these may reduce the risk of developing stroke. Popular supplements for stroke risk reduction include vitamin D, folic acid and NAC (N-acetyl cysteine). However, there is little scientific evidence that stroke supplements do reduce the risk of stroke, and some may even have the opposite effect, or may affect other healthcare conditions. Therefore, always speak to your GP before taking supplements of any sort.
Exercise for stroke
Regular, moderate intensity exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of stroke, because it helps reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels and helps you maintain a healthy weight. The recommended amount is only around half an hour of aerobic exercise per day, which includes anything that gets your heart pumping, such as swimming, fast walking or running.
For stroke survivors, it is important to try to establish some level of exercise where possible, to reduce the risk of stroke happening again, and to help with recovery. Exercise for stroke survivors may be limited by the physical after-effects of their stroke, but there are many ways to get active again, including gentle walks and chair based exercises. Your physiotherapist or GP will be able to advise.
Some people who have limited mobility after stroke will be given exercises for stroke rehabilitation by their physiotherapists. This may include a range of very low intensity exercises, and practicing skills that you are finding difficult. For example, if you are experiencing weakness in the arms after stroke, you may be given some exercises that help you start to use your arm, and rebuild strength, muscle and coordination. For more information on this, download the Stroke Association’s Physiotherapy after stroke leaflet.
Smoking and stroke
Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of having a stroke. Smoking makes your blood more likely to clot because it is thicker, reduces the amount of oxygen carried by your blood, and makes your arteries narrower, which significantly increases your risk of having a stroke. Smokers are more likely to experience stroke, and more likely to die if they do have a stroke, compared to non-smokers. For more information on stroke risk and smoking, read the Stroke Association’s leaflet on Smoking and the risk of stroke.
Visit the NHS website for advice on how to stop smoking.
Stroke and employment
Many people who have experienced stroke are able to work. Some may choose to change jobs or work part time, whereas others go back to their same employment. Your employer has to treat you equally and fairly if you do return to work, and has to make reasonable adjustments to ensure you are able to do your job, despite any disabilities you may have.
If you are unable to work for a short or long term period, you may wish to explore disability benefits that you are entitled to receive – for more information, visit the Money Advice Service.
For more information on returning to work after stroke, visit the Stroke Association website.