While it’s unlikely you’ll come to think of a stroke as the best thing that ever happened to you, surviving a stroke can, in fact, provide a life-altering wake-up call. Healthy changes you make post-stroke can create a higher quality of life and more day-to-day satisfaction than you ever thought possible. If you or someone you love is recovering from a stroke, don’t wait to make these healthy changes.
Let In Support – An independent spirit is laudable and may have gotten you far in life, but everyone needs help sometimes. While undergoing stroke recovery, consider creating a team of individuals you can count on for different types of support. Your team should include a physician, physical therapist and people in your life you can depend on, like friends, family and neighbors. While you are working hard at re-acquiring skills like walking and negotiating mealtime, it simply makes sense to let people help. Remember that depending upon others does not make you a dependent person, and that the work you are currently doing will help to ensure your ability to become as independent as possible once again.
Eat Well – Eating healthy, delicious food is a way to celebrate life. If you relied on old-school fat and sugar-laden recipes before, or frequented fast food restaurants, trade up to health by eating new, good-for-you food like fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources like salmon and chicken and high-fiber whole grains. Use this time to experiment with new flavors, recipes and styles of cooking that rely less on frying and more on broiling and steaming. If you have excess weight, this regimen will help you reduce your caloric intake, another post-stroke plus.
Avoid Salt – Salt can dramatically spike blood pressure, exacerbating your health and potentially causing another stroke. Your taste buds may be off kilter and dulled in the days or weeks following your stroke. Zest up the flavors on your table with seasonings like garlic, oregano and other salt-free favorites and put the salt shaker where it belongs – locked away on a high shelf.
Get Active – Physical therapy will most likely become folded into your daily routine. Work with a physical therapist to get both mental and physical support, and ask for instructions on exercises you can do without them. As time goes by, build up your stamina and strength with exercises your physician agrees you can take on, such as daily walks, swimming and stretching.
Do Not Smoke – No lifestyle habit is more dangerous for your health than smoking. If you have been unable to quit in the past, this is not the time to white-knuckle it. Talk to your doctor about prescribing smoking cessation aids and follow the instructions exactly, with no back-pedaling. Find others who have kicked the habit and ask them to share their how-I-did-it secrets with you.
Curb Your Stress Habit – Even the most type A individual can learn to let go of stress, at least some of the time. Stroke recovery can at points be very stressful and you may find yourself feeling many negative emotions, from worry to fear to anger. This type of stress puts tremendous pressure on both body and brain. Building in stress busters can help dramatically. Some to try include meditation and deep breathing, but don’t discount the stress-relieving power of talking with a dear friend, listening to music or spending time with your cat or dog.
Let In Gratitude – You survived a stroke and that’s an amazing thing. Recuperation may be challenging, even frustrating at times, but you have been given the amazing opportunity of a new start. Use it wisely, and enjoy life.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.