According to stroke.org, while 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke each year. In honor of World Stroke Day (October 29), we’re sharing everything you need to know about a stroke—including signs that you may be having a stroke, how to manage life after stroke, and stroke prevention.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is best described as a “brain attack.” More specifically, a stroke occurs when there is no blood flow to a certain part of the brain, as this causes brain cells to be without oxygen. Every minute a stroke is taking place in the body, more and more brain cells begin to die.
The severity and type of stroke heavily depend on where the stroke occurs in the brain and its longevity. Some stroke survivors will have few problems following their stroke, while others will have major disabilities. Quality of life after a stroke will vary based on the stroke’s magnitude. Most importantly, communicate closely with your doctor to see where your health stands and what you should and shouldn’t do in your recovery.
Signs of a Stroke
Be aware of the signs of a stroke in case you or a loved one ever experience one. Signs you may be having a stroke include:
- Vision loss
- Weakness on one side of your body
- An intense headache
- Trouble speaking/slurred speech
- Comprehension issues
- Difficulty moving
Managing Life After a Stroke
After experiencing a stroke, the road to recovery may be challenging—both physically and mentally. Because of this, we’ve compiled a list of tips and resources that will help with a stroke’s short-term and long-term challenges.
Aerobic exercise, more commonly known as cardio exercise, is a great way to strengthen your heart as well as other muscle functioning, including your heart’s pumping efficiency, which reduces blood pressure and aids your breathing. This type of exercise is especially important after a stroke because it helps with various affected parts of the body that are vulnerable after a stroke such as balance, muscle strength, mental health, and weight. Research found aerobic exercise to also assist cognitive recovery in stroke patients. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, swimming, hiking, dancing, biking, and aerobic classes.
Depending on your health insurance, having a stroke can be costly, the average cost being around $20,000. This can also vary based on how long you are in the hospital and what type of stroke you have. Either way, it isn’t cheap. With social security benefits projected to run out by 2034, you might not have had a chance to set aside money for medical emergencies because of all of your other expenses.
If your stroke left you financially unstable, take time to prioritize your expenses. Organize your bills and determine which ones have priority and should be paid first. Find ways you can cut back on your spending to account for your added medical bills and start saving for emergencies that may arise in the future. Use a saving tool to determine how much money you should have saved for an emergency fund. This will help you be more prepared next time an unexpected bill comes along.
Regardless of your recovery process, you should wait at least one month before driving after having a stroke. Impairments you may not be aware such as vision changes, issues with depth perception, and fatigue could cause difficulties when driving. Talk to your doctor before determining when and if you should drive again.
If you are unable to drive yourself after your stroke, whether that be for just a month or for a longer period of time, consider asking family members or friends to drive you places. You can also take advantage of a variety of additional transportation options:
- Public transportation including buses, trains, subways, etc
- GoGoGrandparent, a driving service for seniors with local drivers available 24/7
- Lyft or Uber, on-demand local car services that can be to your location within minutes
- Veyo, a driving service that partners with insurance companies and other health facilities to offer medical transportation as a covered insurance benefit
If you are not yet retired, you might have to return to work after your stroke. Speak with your doctor about your recovery process to ensure you are ready for work again. With your doctor’s approval, consider working part-time rather than full-time to get back on your feet. Once you have a chance to recover fully, you could go back to full-time if necessary. Make sure you are recovered mentally, physically, and emotionally before you put yourself back into the workplace. The longer you give yourself to recover, the better you will feel.
Affecting more than one-third of stroke victims, depression is a harsh reality for many. You not only have to focus on your physical recovery after a stroke, but you also have to make your emotional and mental recovery a priority. Part of this process is being aware of the symptoms of depression:
- Extreme sadness
- Consistent anxiety
- Regular difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling helpless
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of interest in regular activities/social gatherings
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with your doctor to make a plan for treatment and recovery. There are also numerous depression resources to help.
Reducing the Risk of Another Stroke
Unfortunately, people who have already had a stroke are at greater risk to experience another. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice in your recovery process, including the following:
- Take your prescribed medicine
- Practice a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly (talk to your talk about what amount of exercise is best for you)
- Attend regular medical checkups
- Go to physical therapy if necessary
- Report any abnormalities in your health, abilities, and attitude/behavior
- Detail any physical accidents (such as a fall) to your physician
Here are a few tips to help prevent having a stroke.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure (less than 140/90)
- Keep your weight in check (ideal body mass index of 25 or less)
- Participate in moderate exercise at least five days a week
- Drink in moderation (one glass of alcohol a day or less)
- Avoid smoking
- Follow a healthy diet
Purchase a Medical Alert System
Everyone’s stroke recovery is different. Be sure to speak with your doctor about how you are feeling before you decide how to best handle your everyday life after a stroke. Also, consider getting a medical alert device. You can be vulnerable after a stroke and you don’t want to be left helpless in the case of an emergency. If you have a medical alert device from Medical Guardian, you can receive immediate emergency and non-emergency help sent to your home at the push of a button.