Discharge Instructions for Stroke

Discharge Instructions for Stroke

You have been diagnosed with stroke. During a stroke, blood stops flowing to part of your brain. This can damage areas in the brain that control other parts of the body. Symptoms after a stroke depend on which part of the brain has been affected.

Stroke risk factors

Once you've had a stroke, you're at greater risk for another one. Listed below are some other factors that can increase your risk for another stroke:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Cigarette or cigar smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Carotid or other artery disease
  • Atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, or other heart disease
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Certain blood disorders (such as sickle cell anemia)
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Abuse of illegal drugs
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Family history of stroke
  • Diet high in salty, fried, or greasy foods

Changes in daily living

Doing your regular tasks may be difficult after you've had a stroke, but you can learn new ways to manage your daily activities. In fact, doing daily activities may help you to regain muscle strength and bring back function to affected limbs. Be patient, give yourself time to adjust, and appreciate the progress you make.

Daily activities

You may be at risk of falling. Make changes to your home to help you walk more easily. A therapist will decide if you need an assistive device to walk safely.

You may need to see an occupational or physical therapist to learn new ways of doing things. For example, you may need to make adjustments when bathing or dressing:

  • Try the following tips for showering or bathing:
    • Test the water temperature with a hand or foot that was not affected by the stroke.
    • Use grab bars, a shower seat, a hand-held showerhead, and a long-handled brush.
  • Try the following tips for dressing:
    • Dress while sitting, starting with the affected side or limb.
    • Wear shirts that pull easily over your head and pants or skirts with elastic waistbands.
    • Use zippers with loops attached to the pull tabs.

Lifestyle changes

  • Take your medications exactly as directed. Don't skip doses.
  • Your health care provider will give you information on dietary changes that you may need to make, based on your situation. Your provider may recommend that you see a registered dietitian for help with diet changes. Changes may include:
    • Reducing fat and cholesterol intake
    • Reducing sodium (salt) intake, especially if you have high blood pressure
    • Increasing your intake of fresh vegetables and fruits
    • Eating lean proteins, such as fish, poultry, and legumes (beans and peas) and eating less red meat and processed meats
    • Using low-fat dairy products
    • Using vegetable and nut oils in limited amounts
    • Limiting sweets and processed foods such as chips, cookies, and baked goods.
  • Begin an exercise program. Ask your doctor how to get started and how much activity you should try to get on a daily or weekly basis . You can benefit from simple activities such as walking or gardening.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Men should have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day. Women should limit themselves to 1 alcoholic drink per day.
  • Know your cholesterol level. Follow your doctor's recommendations about how to keep cholesterol under control.
  • If you are a smoker, it is time to quit now. Enroll in a stop-smoking program to improve your chances of success. Ask your doctor about medications or other methods to help you quit.
  • Learn stress management techniques to help you deal with stress in your home and work life.

Follow-up care

  • Keep your medical appointments. Close follow-up is important to stroke rehabilitation and recovery.
  • Some medications require blood tests to check for progress or problems. Keep follow-up appointments for any blood tests ordered by your doctors.

When to seek medical care

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following symptoms of stroke:

  • Weakness, tingling, or loss of feeling on one side of your face or body
  • Sudden double vision or trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble talking or slurred speech
  • Trouble understanding others
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or a sense of falling
  • Blackouts or seizures

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the signs of stroke. When you see these signs, you know that you need to call 911 fast.

F.A.S.T. stands for:

  • F is for face drooping - One side of the face is drooping or numb. When the person smiles, the smile is uneven.
  • A is for arm weakness - One arm is weak or numb. When the person lifts both arms at the same time, one arm may drift downward.
  • S is for speech difficulty - You may notice slurred speech or difficulty speaking. The person can't repeat a simple sentence correctly when asked.
  • T is for time to call 911 - If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 immediately. Make note of the time the symptoms first appeared.