Up to 90% of strokes could be prevented with lifestyle medicine behaviors. Examples include eating a good diet, stopping smoking and getting more physical activity. But what if you have already had a stroke? Can lifestyle medicine help chronic stroke too?
Does physical activity, healthy eating, no smoking and good sleep really help manage chronic stroke?
Negative Health Spiral
First, let’s talk about the negative health spiral that can happen after a stroke. Sometimes weakness, speech difficulties, or cognitive limitations persist. If that’s the case for you, then it can make it difficult to resume your life before the stroke.
Instead, you may experience:
- Sedentary lifestyle – You may find yourself sitting more during the day. You’ve become less active and mobile than before.
- Mental distress – When physical symptoms of stroke don’t resolve, you can feel frustrated, angry, or depressed. If you don’t get good sleep, your memory or concentration may be impaired.
- Social isolation – If you are less mobile than before, you may leave the house less frequently than you used to. missing out on activities. For example, going to work, going out to eat, or attending social events.
- Spiritual unrest – If your new routine is significantly different from your previous life, you may question the meaning of these changes. Or struggle to figure out how to move forward with a new routine.
So, physical disabilities from a stroke can impact several areas of your health. These include your mental, social, and spiritual health. But what can you do about it? What power do you have to positively influence your health moving forward?
Lifestyle Medicine and Chronic Stroke: Small Changes, Big Impact
The limitations you experience from stroke may be significant, and you may feel as if you have no control. But even small changes can have an impact.
What would it mean to you to need less help from your spouse or another caregiver?
Imagine if you could feel more independent with personal daily activities, like going to the bathroom.
Would you enjoy being able to get outside more?
Can you imagine yourself going to a restaurant or a friend’s house again?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading. There may be lifestyle and behavior changes you can make to help you reach these goals.
Even an extra 10-20 minutes of physical activity a day can help you build more strength. More strength in your legs can help improve your walking and balance. It can also help with transfers. For example, getting in and out of a car or out of bed. Strengthening can also help with going up and down stairs. The stronger you become, the less help you need from others. And, the more mobile you will be and better able to get out of the house.
Preventing a second stroke is important. This is because a second stroke may have more or different limitations than the first stroke. So, the complications from stroke add up when you have more than one. Making good food choices can help control high blood pressure and diabetes. Both are risk factors for stroke. And since about 25% of stroke survivors have more than one stroke, it’s important to eat healthy to manage the risk of another stroke. (Learn more about a heart healthy diet here).
Smoking constricts and narrows your blood vessels. Narrow blood vessels can make you more susceptible to blood clots forming. And blood clots can cause stroke.
As mentioned above, stroke can lead to mental distress or poor mental well-being. And mental distress can contribute to poor sleep. Other factors that affect sleep include pain or physical discomfort. The end result? Poor sleep leads to daytime fatigue, irritability, and poor memory among other things. Therefore, getting good sleep is important. If you were less tired, could you participate more in therapy? Or control your pain better? If you could get better sleep, would you feel less stressed? After a good night’s sleep, would you feel less irritable and improve interactions with your spouse or family?
So, even if you have already had a stroke, lifestyle medicine behaviors can still help chronic stroke. Small changes in any of these lifestyle areas can have a big impact on your total health and well-being. Small changes may also be more realistic for your current circumstances. In fact, often when we try to create too much change at one time, we can get overwhelmed and fail.
So, choose an area that you feel you can focus on and start small change. Move 15 minutes more each day. Eat a healthy lunch. Work with your doctor on how to stop smoking. Assess where you can make small changes to establish a healthier sleep routine.
For more information about how lifestyle medicine can help chronic stroke, check out this resource from the American Heart Association.
Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness. Information is intended for the general reader and is not a substitute for medical advice. The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and not interpreted as specific advice for you. There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.