Strokes: What To Expect and How To Recover After a Stroke
October 29 is World Stroke Day, a great time to learn more about this medical emergency. Stroke happens more often than you might think, and it’s mostly preventable. According to the World Stroke Organization, one in four people worldwide will have a stroke.
It is reported that 90% of strokes can be prevented. While the effects of a stroke can be overwhelming, understanding the recovery process and how to prevent another one can help you navigate the road back to health and independence.
What Exactly Is a Stroke?
A stroke happens when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked or bursts. Brain cells die when they don’t receive blood and oxygen. The two major types of stroke are:
- Ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage or clot obstructs a vessel supplying blood to the brain.
- Hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and causes blood to leak into or around the brain. The blood accumulates and compresses surrounding brain tissue.
You may also have heard of something called a “mini-stroke.” That’s the common name for a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It’s different from the other types of stroke because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time—usually no more than 5 minutes.
What Happens After a Stroke?
Immediately after a stroke, the health care team will run tests and perform an examination to determine the cause and type of stroke and which areas of the brain were affected. This information tells the team how to monitor and manage the underlying issues that may have caused the stroke and helps them create a treatment plan.
Depending on the severity of the stroke and the part of the brain that’s damaged, you may experience:
- Extreme fatigue.
- Paralysis, weakness on one or both sides of the body, difficulty walking.
- Problems with speaking or understanding language.
- Cognitive changes, such as memory problems or difficulty concentrating.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Difficulty swallowing.
Recovering From a Stroke
Recovery time differs for everyone—it may take weeks, months, or even years. Rehabilitation is a critical part of recovery. The rehabilitation process starts in the hospital and, depending on the severity of the stroke, will continue at home or in a rehabilitation center.
Under your doctor’s direction, rehabilitation specialists will create a customized treatment program for your needs. This may include:
- Physical, occupational, and speech and language therapy.
- Nutritional care.
- Emotional and psychological recovery.
- Support groups.
Your rehabilitation team will help you relearn skills the stroke may have affected, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, cooking and eating. You may need help with standing, sitting, walking or self-propelling in a wheelchair. The speech and language therapist will coach you on communication and language skills. Cognitive skills such as memory and problem-solving will also be addressed.
Tips for Preventing Another Stroke
It seems unjust, but after having a stroke, your chance of having another stroke increases. The good news is that 80% of recurrent strokes are preventable with the following lifestyle changes:
- If you smoke, stop!
- Manage your blood pressure.
- Control your cholesterol.
- Increase your activity.
- Lose weight.
- Adopt healthy eating habits.
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor and schedule frequent checkups.
Recovering from a stroke requires resilience, support, patience and a commitment to rehabilitation. But with the right resources and mindset, individuals can overcome the challenges of a stroke and live a meaningful and happy life.
How Right at Home Can Help
Caring for a loved one with a long-term illness can be overwhelming and affect the family caregiver’s health over time. Right at Home’s trained and insured/bonded caregivers can help with recovery after a stroke by providing companionship/homemaking services, personal care, and respite for a family caregiver. Learn more about our services, or use our office locator to contact the office nearest you for more information.