The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that as many as 795,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year. A stroke is a serious condition that can range in severity but that requires some patience throughout the recovery process. Learn more about what a stroke is and the recovery tips that can help you improve faster.
What Is a Stroke?
You can think of a stroke as the brain’s equivalent of a heart attack. It occurs when a part of your brain doesn’t receive enough blood flow, either because you have a blocked artery or because you were bleeding into your brain. If something blocks blood flow to your brain, the organ doesn’t receive the oxygen it needs.
Anyone can have a stroke, including children. That said, you may have a higher risk than others if you are older than 65 or if you have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or irregular heart rhythms.
The warning signs of a stroke are:
- Slurred speech
- Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes
- Loss of balance
- Drooping smile
- Muscle weakness on one side of the body
Most strokes are ischemic, which means that blood clots have blocked the blood vessels to the brain. Plaque can also cause such a blockage. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when an artery in the brain breaks open or leaks blood into the brain. This blood puts a lot of pressure on brain cells.
Stroke Recovery Tips
If you’ve suffered a stroke, take the time to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle so that you can recover faster and perhaps even prevent future strokes.
Rest When Your Body Asks for It
The stroke and the recovery process both put a lot of stress on your body, and you need to listen to what it tells you. If fatigue becomes overwhelming, allow yourself to rest. As you recover, your brain needs sleep. Sleep helps improve movement recovery after a stroke, making it as vital as your rehabilitation exercises.
Good Nutrition Is Key
Your body needs all the right nutrients to heal more efficiently. This means sticking to a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. Some vitamins are also essential for stroke recovery, including vitamin D, which you get from the sun but also from egg yolks, fatty fish, and cheese.
Vitamin B3, present in turkey, salmon, and chicken, is also crucial because it helps with neuroplasticity. Another excellent option is vitamin B12 because it can boost the function of nerve and brain cells. Eggs, poultry, and milk are also great sources. And If cholesterol is a concern, fish is a better option.
An additional vitamin to consider adding to your diet is vitamin C. You can find it in citrus fruits, as well as broccoli and bell peppers.
If you have dietary restrictions, consult your doctor about whether taking vitamin supplements is a good option for you. As you recover from a stroke, avoid alcohol and an excess amount of sugary foods and drinks, as well as foods rich in saturated fat.
Use the Affected Side of Your Body
Your brain focuses on efficiency. If you don’t use an affected limb or entire side of your body, your brain forgets how. For instance, if you spend days not using your right hand, it will assume it’s not an important part of the body and de-prioritize it.
As you recover, all movement is important. Even if you don’t fully control the limb or if you experience paralysis after the stroke, you can help by moving that part of your body with your hands.
Schedule Regular Visits to Your Doctor
Your doctor is one of your most powerful allies as you start healing from a stroke. They will be able to guide you through all of the stages of your recovery, offering advice and reassurance. They have experience treating strokes and can give you the right perspective on how your recovery is going. Speaking often and honestly with them is key.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Progress after a stroke tends to be slow, which can be discouraging. You may not see the kinds of huge improvements you may have expected, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t improving at all.
One of the toughest moments in the stroke recovery process is the “plateau” that occurs after about three months. You may notice that recovery is slowing down. It doesn’t have to stop, however, if you continue with your rehabilitation programs.
To rewire itself, your brain needs constant stimulation. Speak with your doctor about finding the right therapies to perform at home so that you can continue making progress even after months after experiencing the stroke.
Communicate What You Feel
Another important aspect of recovering from a stroke is healing emotionally. Going through a serious issue like a stroke leaves you feeling vulnerable or like you’re alone with your worries.
Communicate with your loved ones and let them know what you’re feeling. If that’s not an option, reach out to support groups. Support groups allow you to meet others who have gone through similar situations and who have a good understanding of the challenges you face. For some people, turning to a therapist can be helpful, too.
Physical activity, even simply walking around a room, helps minimize high blood pressure. This means it can also assist in preventing future strokes. Exercise additionally boosts your mood by releasing endorphins.
Ask your doctor what exercise options are suitable for your needs. Never begin a regimen without the recommendation of your doctor.
Managing Life After a Stroke
Lingering stroke symptoms can be frustrating. They may leave you thinking that there’s nothing you can really do about them. That’s not necessarily true. Lately, the field of regenerative medicine has been turning to stem cell therapy options to help people manage better after a stroke.
Regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, has the potential to replace damaged brain cells and restore some lost functions for post-stroke patients. MSCs (Mesenchymal Stem Cells) can potentially help post-stroke by reducing inflammation, promoting neuroprotection, and stimulating tissue repair in the damaged brain.
As with every treatment you’re considering, speak with your doctor to find out whether it might be a good choice for your needs.