5 Lifestyle changes

The physical changes and disabilities resulting from stroke can pose numerous challenges to stroke survivors as they rebuild their lives and look to go about day-to-day activities. From wearing special shoes to finding holidays that meet specific access needs, there are great resources like the Disabled Living Foundation to go for information and advice on independent living. Health Talk Online lets you share in other people’s experiences of health and illness. You can read, watch or listen to interviews on other people’s experiences and find reliable information about conditions, treatment choices and support.

As you adapt to life as a stroke survivor, it is a good time to take stock and consider if you are doing all that you can stay healthy. Being careful with what you eat, cutting down your alcohol intake and stopping smoking will boost your chances of recovery and make it less likely that you’ll have another stroke in the future.

Exercise

  • Regular exercise can assist in rehabilitation for stroke survivors. It will help to control your weight, blood cholesterol and insulin levels, as well as helping to lower blood pressure.
  • It is important to take things gently and listen to the advice of a physiotherapist if you have one. This is particularly crucial if you have not done formal exercise for a while, in which case you should check with your doctor before you begin.
  • Aim to do about 20 minutes of moderate exercise – about the same level of effort as going for a brisk walk – every day. If you prefer, you can split this into small bursts or try to build “exercise-activities” into your regular routine. Even if you are in a wheelchair, there will be likely be some exercises you can do that will be beneficial.

Diet

  • A healthy diet can aid your recovery from stroke. Try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day and include oily fish, such as trout, salmon, sardines and mackerel in meals three times a week.
  • Replace fatty foods with low fat alternatives. This will help to stop your arteries narrowing, lower cholesterol and also keep your weight at a healthy level.
  • Eating less salt and salty foods will help you to control your blood pressure. Watch out for hidden salt in processed food, even in bread and biscuits.

Alcohol

  • Giving up or cutting down on your alcohol intake has benefits for everybody, but is particularly important for stroke survivors.
  • Alcohol is high in calories and can lead to obesity and high blood pressure, both common causes of stroke.
  • Stroke can cause depression, forgetfulness, shakiness and confusion. Drinking can make these worse and you should make sure that you are not using alcohol as a way to deal with problems.
  • Alcohol can be dangerous when you are taking certain medicines. Check with your doctor before starting to drink again after stroke.