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Fall 2011
PREVENTION

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Your Diet and Exercise Plan

How Healthy Eating and Increased Activity Can Help

By Micki Sievwright, Managing Editor

Anyone can have a stroke—it does not discriminate based on age, race or gender. The same is true for secondary stroke: Your chances increase if you have certain risk factors or criteria that can cause another stroke.

To live the healthiest post-stroke life, eat wisely and move your body often. Knowing that your life is different now, post stroke, you may want to consult a dietician and physical therapist to discuss your challenges and create a personalized plan. Maintaining a healthy balance of a nutritious diet and exercise can lead you on the path of recovery. This takes focus and dedication, however.

By eating healthy and increasing your physical activity, you are protecting your body from risk of a second stroke. Take it step by step and talk with your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise program.

Eating Smart, Eating Healthy

Maintaining a balance of fruits, vegetables and protein is a must for everyone. But stroke can affect your nutritional health as it might limit your daily activities associated with eating, such as grocery shopping, preparing meals and feeding yourself. It is common for stroke survivors to experience trouble while swallowing; food can become pocketed between the cheek and teeth and drooling may occur because of an inability to seal the lips.

Other impairments include:

  • Choking and coughing during and after meals
  • Inability to suck from a straw
  • Lack of a gag reflex

Many stroke survivors have weakness on one side. If the hand or arm that you use to feed yourself is weak, you may find it hard to use a knife and fork. If you have problems reaching for food, spilling food, cutting meat or opening containers, ask your speech therapist, occupational therapist, nurse or doctor about getting some special items that can make eating easier. Examples include:

  • Large-handled silverware
  • Suction cups for dishes
  • Extra-long tongs
  • Plate guards

A registered dietitian can help you develop an eating plan that will provide a satisfying and nutritious diet.

Finding the Right Exercise

A wise man once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” 

Embrace that saying and take a first step to having a healthy mind and body.  Adopting a positive attitude can help you cope with challenges and stay focused on your recovery.

First, set an initial goal of exercising to regain pre-stroke levels of activity as soon as possible. This may include:

  • Sets of sitting down and standing up
  • Working on balance
  • Practice shifting weight
  • Gentle stretching
  • Bending at joints

For many stroke survivors, it is helpful to have  someone standing nearby while you are exercising.

Schedule exercise for a time of day when you feel your best. It might be tiring on some days more than others. Try dividing daily exercise into two sessions—perhaps one in the morning and another in the afternoon to avoid fatigue and increase stamina. Because the effects of stroke vary, exercise levels will be different for each individual.

Micki Sievwright is the new managing editor of StrokeSmartTM. She has contributed to several publications including Minnesota Palate, Ski Patrol Magazine and MD News.

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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

National Stroke Association

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