Stroke Recovery & Beyond
After a stroke, you may be anxious to get back to your "normal" self, or worry how you’ll deal with daily responsibilities. These feelings are common. Through the Stroke Program, you'll get guidance, support and tools to help you live independently, relearn cognitive and social skills and/or adapt to living with new limitations.
Every person experiences a stroke differently. Cedars-Sinai doctors will help create a care plan based on your individual needs and will take into consideration the following:
- Your age, overall health, and health history
- Type of stroke you had
- The severity of your stroke
- Where in your brain the stroke occurred
- What caused your stroke
- How well you handle certain medications, treatments or therapies
- Your preferences
After an ischemic stroke, your doctor may recommend the following medications and lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of another event by up to 80%:
- Dietary modification
- A statin, drugs that lower cholesterol
- An antihypertensive agent, drugs that treat high blood pressure
Transition to Home
The stroke team's primary goal is getting you back to independent living, as soon as possible. In some cases, that may involve spending time in a rehabilitation center before returning home.
The following 3 steps can help you safely make this transition:
- Building a safe home environment. According to the National Stroke Association, 40% of all stroke survivors suffer serious falls within a year after their stroke. So, it's important that your family or caregivers clear your home of clutter, so you can move around safely upon return. It may be helpful to install assistive and safety devices such as a raised toilet seat, tub bench or handled showerhead to make using your bathroom easier and safer. Also, make sure to secure loose carpets and wear nonskid shoes around the house.
- Participating in rehabilitation activities. For some patients, rehabilitation services can be started as soon as two days after a stroke. For others, more time may be recommended. Once you begin rehabilitation, you may be working with physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists to improve your communication, physical, cognitive and vision functioning. This will help you successfully reintegrate at home, in the community and at work.
- Reducing risk of another stroke. Having a stroke means that you have a greater risk for another (recurrent) stroke. But according to the National Stroke Association, 80% of secondary strokes can be prevented by a combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions. These can include making positive changes in diet, exercise and nutrition.
Your Recovery Care Team
Meeting recovery goals is important—and many doctors, specialists and staff members will be involved with your care. Depending on your stroke and individualized treatment plan, your care team may include a combination of:
- Neurologist: A medical doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the nervous system, including stroke.
- Neurovascular Surgeon: Highly trained specialists who diagnose and treat vascular diseases of the brain and spinal cord.
- Stroke Coordinator: A stroke-certified registered nurse who plans and coordinates all aspects of care for stroke patients—from initial referral to follow-up care.
- Rehabilitation Nurse: A nurse who helps patients adjust to life after a stroke and manages health conditions that could impact their future risk.
- Physiatrist: A medical doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
- Physical Therapist: A therapist who helps patients overcome challenges with balance and physical activity, including walking and standing.
- Occupational Therapist: A therapist who helps patients develop strategies to deal with daily activities such as bathing, brushing your teeth, eating, getting dressed or cooking.
- Speech Therapist: A therapist who helps patients relearn communication skills including speech, writing and reading.
- Social Worker: A care coordinator who helps patients make decisions about rehab programs, living arrangements, insurance and support services in the home.
- Case Manager: A care coordinator who helps patients organize their follow-up care.
Recognizing the Risk Factors
Anyone can have a stroke, at any age. Make sure you’re aware of the risk factors you can—and can’t—control.
Factors you can control:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib) or other heart disease
- Carotid stenosis
- Sleep apnea
- Birth control pills
- Excessive use of drugs or alcohol
Factors you can’t control:
- Increasing age. The older you are, the greater your risk of stroke.
- Gender. Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
- Heredity and race. African-Americans have a higher risk of death and disability from stroke than whites. Latino Americans are also at higher risk of stroke.
- Prior stroke. Someone who has had a stroke is at higher risk of having another one.
Tips to Preventing A Stroke
Although stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in U.S. adults, up to 80% of strokes are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By following a healthy lifestyle and managing pre-existing conditions, you can reduce your risk.
Follow these five steps:
- Eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. A nutritious diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables is important for good health. The Surgeon General recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking, for example) for adults each week, and at least 1 hour of daily activity for children and teens.
- Don't smoke. Smoking cigarettes greatly increases your risk of a stroke. Smoking reduces oxygen levels in your blood, making your heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body.
- Limit alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Men should not exceed more than two drinks a day, women should limit intake to one a day.
- Control cholesterol and blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, medication and lifestyle changes can lower your stroke risk. Ask your doctor how often your cholesterol and blood pressure should be checked.
- Manage diabetes and heart disease. Uncontrolled diabetes and/or heart disease can also increase your risk of stroke. Check your blood-sugar levels regularly and take heart medication prescribed by your doctor.
Support For You
You don’t have to recover from stroke alone. Joining a support group will help you connect with others facing similar challenges. In addition to emotional support, these groups share important tips, such as recommendations for nutrition and wellbeing practices, financial support resources and rehabilitation activities.
Patients, families and caregivers are welcome to any of Cedars-Sinai’s support groups:
- Yes I Can stroke support group (all ages): Meets second Tuesday of each month, 2-3:30 p.m.
- One Stroke Ahead stroke support group (ages 18-55): Meets second Tuesday of each month, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
- Aphasia Support Group: Meets Fridays, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
- One Stroke Ahead (for stroke survivors under age 50)
For more information and meeting locations, please contact Hugh Cooper at 310-423-6280. Always call to confirm attendance and location.
Support for Caregivers
Recovering from a stroke can be a difficult and confusing process for patients and their caregivers. Use these tips to better communicate with your loved one and their care team, to help them cope with the after-effects of a stroke.
- Safety-proof the home. Secure loose carpeting and rugs so that there are clear walkways.
- Attend doctor appointments. Ask questions about their care and recovery plans.
- Observe changes in behavior and moods. Medications and stress during recovery can bring on unusual behavior or mood swings, so be sure to show patience and understanding.
- Take time for yourself. Make sure you're eating well and getting plenty of sleep.
- Create your own support network, to help cope with your new responsibilities.
- Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress.