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Range of Recovery

The goal is to restore as much independence as possible. Every person is different, and so is every stroke. Many people regain some or all of their ability to take care of themselves. Those who get clot-busting drugs soon enough after their stroke may recover completely. And people whose abilities are changed by a stroke can often learn ways to adapt through therapies to help with movement, everyday tasks, and communication.

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Common Issues

Whether a stroke causes long-term effects depends on how severe it was, where in the brain it struck, and how quickly the stroke got treated. After a stroke, many people have physical problems such as numbness in the arms or legs and trouble with walking, vision, swallowing, talking, or understanding. These issues may be permanent, but not always. Rehabilitation is key for regaining lost skills and adapting to damage that can't be undone.

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PT and OT

Muscle weakness, as well as balance problems, are very common after a stroke. This can affect walking and other daily activities. Physical therapy (PT) helps you regain strength, balance, and coordination. For fine motor skills, such as using a knife and fork, writing, and buttoning a shirt, occupational therapy (OT) can help.

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Speech Therapy

Some people have trouble speaking after a stroke. For them, speech and language therapy is key to regaining as much of that ability as possible. A speech therapist can also help if someone has trouble swallowing.

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Talk Therapy

A lot of stroke survivors and their loved ones feel difficult emotions, including anxiety and sadness. You don’t have to deal with that alone, especially if it starts to affect your daily life. A psychologist or mental health counselor can help you manage these emotions and watch for signs of depression, which is common after a stroke -- and can be treated.

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Preventing Another Stroke

After a stroke or TIA, avoiding another one is a top priority. While your risk is higher than someone who’s never had a stroke, that risk drops over time -- and there are things that help lower that risk. Medication, healthier habits and, for some people, surgery may be part of your doctor’s recommendations.

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After a stroke, if you have conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, or heart disease, your doctor will prescribe medication to treat them. People at high risk may need to take anti-platelet medicines, such as aspirin, to help prevent blood clots. Some people may need anti-clotting drugs, such as warfarin.

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What to Check

Taking your medication is key. But so are these things:

  • Exercise. If you have your doctor's permission, slowly add more active time to your day. And cut down on time spent sitting.
  • Weight. Ask your doctor what habits will help you be your healthiest at any size, and discuss whether weight loss is part of that.
  • Tobacco. If you smoke, make it a priority to quit.

A healthier diet is also a big part of lowering your risk.

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Food Shifts

Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. Cut back on saturated fat (found mainly in animal products but also in coconut and palm oils), salt, and added sugar.

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It’s like a cross between the traditional Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, and it includes vegetables, berries, fish, beans, nuts, whole grains, poultry, olive oil, and a little bit of red wine. Eating this way may help slow down a decline in mental skills after a stroke, according to a study of 106 stroke survivors.

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Carotid Artery Surgery

Some strokes are due to narrowed carotid arteries, which are on both sides of the neck and bring blood to the brain. People who’ve had a mild stroke or TIA for this reason may be candidates for carotid endarterectomy. The surgeon removes plaque from the lining of the carotid arteries. Ask your doctor about the risks, benefits, and recovery, which may take several weeks.

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Balloon and Stent

Doctors can sometimes treat a clogged carotid artery without major surgery. A procedure called angioplasty involves guiding a catheter to the carotid artery and inflating a tiny balloon to widen the narrowed area. A metal tube, called a stent, can be inserted and left in place to keep the artery open. You’ll likely stay in the hospital for a night and get back to your usual activities in a few days.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/06/2020 Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on January 06, 2020


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American Heart Association: “Stroke Symptoms: FAST.”

CDC: “About Stroke,” “Stroke Signs and Symptoms.”

National Institute on Aging: “Rehabilitation After Stroke.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet.”

American Stroke Association: “Why Getting Quick Stroke Treatment Is Important,” Ischemic Stroke (Clots),” “Stopping the Bleeding in a Hemorrhagic Stroke.”

NYU Langone Health: “Surgery for Carotid Artery Disease.”

News release, American Stroke Association.

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on January 06, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.