Management of stroke is critical within the first 3 hours, but rehabilitation can continue for months. Life after stroke may involve medications, therapies, and diet and lifestyle changes.

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked (ischemic stroke) or the brain suddenly starts to bleed (hemorrhagic stroke).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.

A stroke is a medical emergency. It can cause brain damage, long-term disability, and even death. If you think someone is having a stroke, every minute counts.

Keep reading to learn more about what steps doctors take to manage stroke during the critical hours that follow and what steps people who’ve had a stroke can take to continue their rehabilitation.

What to do if you think someone is having a stroke

If you think someone is having a stroke, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately. It’s best not to try to drive to the hospital. When an ambulance arrives, paramedics can start giving lifesaving treatment while on the way to the emergency department.

Was this helpful?

Many hospitals have a specialized stroke unit. A team of doctors will provide emergency care.

The first 3 hours are critical in managing the effects of stroke. Receiving specific medications during this time frame can improve your likelihood of long-term survival and reduce your chance of long-term brain damage.

Treatment will depend on whether the stroke was ischemic or hemorrhagic.

Ischemic stroke management

Emergency treatment for an ischemic stroke may include:

Hemorrhagic stroke management

Emergency treatment for a hemorrhagic stroke may include:

  • blood pressure medications to lower strain on blood vessels in the brain
  • a procedure called aneurysm clipping to stop bleeding from an aneurysm
  • blood transfusion
  • coil embolization to seal off an aneurysm and prevent it from bursting again
  • drainage of excess fluid to relieve pressure in the brain
  • surgery to remove part of the skull to relieve swelling

Your recovery will depend on the severity of the stroke and how quickly you received treatment.

After a stroke, up to 40% of people experience minor limitations to their basic activities of daily living, and 40% experience moderate to severe impairments, according to the American Stroke Association. But some people will make an almost complete recovery.

Rehabilitation after a stroke typically starts in the hospital and involves a team of professionals, such as:

Recovery focuses on these main areas:

Complications of stroke

A stroke is serious and, depending on its severity, can cause lasting brain damage or disability.

Complications can include:

Was this helpful?

Many people have difficulty eating and may become malnourished after a stroke. Research suggests that malnutrition after stroke is associated with increased mortality and poor recovery.

Diet for stroke recovery involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and foods low in added salt and sugar. Your doctor may also recommend supplementing your diet with protein, vitamins, and minerals.

If you have difficulty chewing or swallowing after a stroke, you may need to cut your food into small pieces or even puree your food so that chewing isn’t necessary. You may also need to focus on soft foods, like scrambled eggs, baked fish, potatoes, avocado, oatmeal, and yogurt.

Read more about eating a heart-healthy diet.

If you’ve had a stroke, you have a high chance of experiencing another one. Large studies in Germany and Australia and New Zealand both suggest that about 1 in 5 people who survive a stroke have another stroke within 5 years.

However, estimates vary, as your chance of recurrence depends on several factors. The leading risk factors for a stroke include:

Modifying these risk factors through lifestyle changes can help prevent future strokes. Some ways to help prevent a future stroke include:

  • eating heart-healthy foods
  • limiting your intake of salt and added sugars
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • getting regular physical activity
  • quitting smoking
  • getting enough sleep
  • taking blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • contacting a doctor for regular checkups

Some healthcare professionals may recommend using a cardiac monitor for 7–30 days after a stroke to check for AFib. They may even suggest using an implantable loop recorder to monitor your heart rhythm for up to 2 years.

A stroke is a medical emergency that needs prompt treatment. In general, the sooner you get treatment for a stroke, the better the outcome. The first 3 hours are crucial, as certain medications are more effective during this time.

Once you’re stable, rehabilitation should begin in the hospital with speech, physical, and cognitive therapy. Recovery time is different for everyone.