Surviving a Stroke

Stroke can affect anyone, and symptoms may differ from person to person. Symptoms and neurological deficit depend upon the area of brain affected. But in simple terms, greater the area or more functional the area affected, greater would be the disability.  There is no way to predict how much one will recover after a stroke. Nor is it possible to know how long it will take to recover.

Once brain damage is permanent, it can not regain its’ normal function completely.

The surviving brain however tries to take up the functions lost, but only to a limited extent, something called ‘ Brain plasticity’.

The effects of stroke vary from person to person. Some problems may be temporary and will get better with time. Other problems may be permanent.

Patients’ with Transient Ischaemic attacks, or Mini-strokes recover completely within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.

What are the possible physical problems in stroke survivors?

Long term physical problems may include any of the following or various combinations of these

Weakness or paralysis- Weakness of hand or leg

Incoordination while walking or doing fine work

Balance problems while walking

Difficulty in speaking, slurred speech

Pain or numbness

Trouble swallowing

Trouble controlling urine or stools

Becoming easily tired or fatigued

Stroke problems related to thinking and emotions can include the following:

Memory loss

Uncontrollable emotions

Depression and anxiety

What Are Common Medical Complications that can follow a Stroke?

The complications usually occur over time. Some of these are easily preventable, however others may be essentially a part of the Stroke sequelae itself.


– Depression is a mood disorder which is common after stroke and serious as well. Depression is a normal response to any adverse health event. Almost 30% of stroke patients develop depression at some point of time.

Pressure Sores

Pressure sores or Bed sores happen when prolonged “pressure” over bony prominencies causes skin breakdown. This can occur in patents dependent on caregivers for change of posture in bed, or in patients with poor nutritional status. The most common areas for pressure sores are boney areas. These include heels, elbows, hips and the tailbone. An easy way of preventing bed sores is frequent posture change and use of air mattress in bedridden patients.

Muscle Spasticity

Muscle spasticity and contractures can occur over time. After stroke, muscles may become stiff and lead to permanent shortening of length of muscles leading to contractures. Contractures may limit the range of motion of the joints and may be painful as well. Early rehabilitation and physiotherapy can help prevent painful contractures.

Deep Venous Thrombosis

Deep venous thrombosis happens when a clot forms in the veins of the leg because of lack of mobility. Sometimes the clot from lags can get dislodged and get impacted in lungs, causing life threatening Pulmonary embolism.  Elastic stocking can be used to help venous blood flow from legs.

Chest infections

Impaired mobility, difficulty in swallowing or coughing, and impaired coordination of reflexes protecting the airway may lead to repeated infections or pneumonia. Chest physiotherapy and early mobilisation helps in preventing these infections.

How Do You Prevent Future Strokes?

If you had one stroke, you can always have a second one. If you reduce your risk factors, your risk of a secondary stroke will go down.

Monitor blood pressure – Since, high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke, regular monitoring and control is must. High blood pressure can be controlled by medicine, low salt diet and exercise.

Eat healthy- Take small meals at short intervals. Take low salt, fat free diet. Take more of fresh fruits and fluids. Your salt intake in a day should be less than 5 gm or 2/3 of a tea-spoonful.

Exercise regularly – Obesity increases your risk of stroke. Thats why you need to exercise regularly to  reduce the risk of another stroke. Learn more about eating healthy and exercising after stroke.

Quit alcohol – Alcohol increases the risk of stroke.

Stop smoking – Stopping now can lower the risk of another stroke.

Medicines as prescribed – After a stroke, some medications will be prescribed to you by your doctor. These may include blood thinners, drugs to control you blood pressure, drugs to lower your blood cholesterol and some others as well. Take them as advised. Know about the side effects of the drugs you are taking, and watch out for them.

Manage stress– Take time out for yourself and take it easy. Yoga and meditation may help you manage your work better and lower your stress level.

What does Aspirin do?

Aspirin is an anti-platelet drug. It is one of the commonest drug used after stroke and heart attack. It keeps blood thin and prevents clot formation.

Common side effects of Aspirin include gastrointestinal ulcerations, abdominal pain, upset stomach, heartburn, drowsiness, headache, cramping, nausea, gastritis, and bleeding tendency.

Tell your doctor you are taking aspirin before having any type of surgery, including dental procedures.

Also, tell your doctor you are taking this medicine before having any type of lab work, as aspirin may interfere with the results.

If you take aspirin regularly to prevent a heart attack or stroke, you shouldn’t take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen) to treat pain without first talking to your doctor.

Aspirin may cause stomach/intestinal bleeding and ulcers. Older adults may be more likely to suffer from this side effect.

Disclaimer- This article is meant for only general public awareness and education. The text can not substitute expert medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

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