No products in the cart.

No products in the cart.

Can Head Injury Cause a Stroke? 5 Ways to Help Prevent Stroke After Brain Injury

Doctor bandaging man with head injury

Can a head injury cause a stroke?

While most people know a head injury increases their risk of dementia, many do not realize its connection to stroke. But new research reveals that TBI can, in fact, lead to a stroke.

Today’s article will explain why a head injury can cause a stroke, and how you can reduce your risk.

Connection Between Head Injury and Stroke

According to several nationwide studies, a single head injury can increase a person’s risk of stroke by almost tenfold.

In a 2011 study published in the journal Stroke, researchers examined the records of over 23,000 TBI patients. These patient’s records were then compared to 69,597 people without a brain injury.

The researchers found that 2.9% of patients with a traumatic brain injury had experienced a stroke within five years of their injury. In contrast, only 0.3% of healthy patients had a stroke within that same period.

This study wasn’t the only one to find a correlation between head injury and stroke, though. Researchers at the University of Michigan and the V.A. also discovered that people with a brain injury were more at risk of stroke.

In fact, TBI survivors were 30% more likely to have a stroke than people without a history of head injury. However, the number itself was still relatively low. Only 1.1% of TBI patients in the study experienced a stroke.

Other studies have also shown that even mild head injuries like concussions can increase someone’s risk of stroke. In people with concussions, for example, the incidence of stroke is higher than in those without a concussion.

All of this strongly indicates that there may be a correlation between head injury and a subsequent stroke. But why does this happen? We’ll look at some reasons below.

Why Can Head Injury Cause Increased Risk for Stroke?

mri of stroke after head injury

It is not entirely clear why head injuries may cause an increased risk of stroke. However, there are two possible explanations.

First, a head injury, especially penetrating head injuries, can damage or weaken the blood vessels in the brain. This can cause them to rupture at a later date, leading to a hemorrhagic stroke.

Second, researchers have found that moderate and severe head injuries can cause blood clotting problems. If the blood cannot clot correctly, this can also trigger a stroke.

For example, if too many blood clots are formed, an ischemic stroke can occur. On the other hand, if the blood becomes too thin, a brain hemorrhage can form.

These factors help explain why a head injury can cause a stroke. But is there any way to prevent a stroke from occurring?

How to Prevent Stroke After Brain Injury

The fact that a head injury can increase your risk of a stroke is concerning. Even with a head injury though, the chances of actually suffering a stroke are still relatively low.

With that said, it’s important to try to reduce stroke risk after head injury. Fortunately, there are 5 proven ways to do this, which we will look at below:

1. Recognize the Warning Signs of Stroke

senior woman sitting on couch rubbing temples and closing her eyes

The first and best way to prevent severe damage from stroke is to recognize the warning signs. The sooner you can get treatment, the higher your chances of recovery will be.

To remember the signs of a stroke, think of the acronym F.A.S.T. which stands for:

  • Face. Smile and see if one side droops
  • Arms. Raise both arms to see if one arm falls
  • Speech. Can the person speak, or are they slurring their words or speaking gibberish?
  • Time. If the person displays any of these signs, call 911 right away and write down the time these symptoms appeared

With a stroke, every minute counts. If doctors can treat you within three hours after your symptoms, you can have an excellent shot at recovery.

Other warning signs of stroke include:

  • Numbness/tingling or weakness in face, arms, or legs
  • Trouble understanding others
  • Sudden vision changes in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Sudden, severe headache

Again, if you experience any of these symptoms call 911 immediately, even if you’re not sure you are having a stroke.

2. Reduce Sodium Intake and Monitor Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. Unfortunately, a head injury can cause high blood pressure, which will increase your stroke risk.

One of the best ways to lower your blood pressure is to reduce your sodium intake and eat more potassium.

Potassium helps lessen the effect of salt in your body and eases tension in the blood vessels, both of which will reduce your blood pressure. Some foods that are naturally high in potassium include:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Fish
  • Reduced-fat milk and yogurt

Click here for a list of more foods that can help prevent stroke »

3. Exercise Regularly

woman sitting on exercise mat drinking water

Exercising enough to break a sweat a few times a week can reduce your stroke risk by twenty percent. It also can bring down your blood pressure, which will further reduce your risk of stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends that people practice moderate physical activity for at least 40 minutes, three to four times per week.

These 40 minutes don’t have to be all in one session, and they don’t have to be as intense as running a marathon. Some examples of activities you can do include:

  • Walks around your neighborhood
  • Taking the stairs
  • Short bike rides
  • Gardening

Again, nothing too strenuous, but enough to get your heart pumping.

If exercise causes you fatigue or headaches, take things easy at first. For example, you can slowly build up your tolerance by starting with five-minute sessions (or less!). Then, work your way from there.

4. Reduce Stress

TBI recovery can be stressful, and unfortunately, living with chronic stress increases your stroke risk by fourfold.

That is why it is absolutely critical to find ways to manage stress after brain injury. One effective way to do this is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a meditative practice of trying to be fully present and aware of the current moment.

To do this, it helps to have a point of focus that pulls your attention to your body. For most people, this point of focus is their breath.

When you focus on your breath, it’s much harder for thoughts and worries to get in. This gives you a chance to step back and observe what you are feeling with a clear mind.

If you find it too difficult to meditate, talk to your doctor about medication to alleviate anxiety. While we like to encourage natural methods whenever possible, medication is sometimes the best option for minimizing your chances of stroke.

5. Take Your Vitamins

spoon full of vitamins to prevent stroke after head injury

Finally, certain nutrients can help prevent stroke. You can get these nutrients from food, but vitamin supplements can fill in the gap if you need extra help.

The best vitamins to prevent stroke after head injury include:

  • CoQ10
  • Vitamin B3 and B12
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil)

Before you start any new vitamins, check with your doctor to make sure nothing will interact with any medication you are taking.

Understanding the Link Between Head Injury and Stroke

Head injury can lead to an increased risk of stroke. Even patients with mild head injuries are at risk.

Fortunately, with the right preventative measures, you can lower your overall stroke risk after brain injury. And by learning the common signs of a stroke, you can improve your chances of getting early treatment, which just might save your life.

Keep it going: Do you know these 15 essential TBI recovery tips?

If you like our content, you’ll love our ebook and newsletters! Get instant access to our TBI recovery tips ebook with 20 pages of helpful advice by signing up below.

You’ll also receive our emails that share survivor stories and more useful TBI recovery tips, which you can opt out of at any time. (We know you’ll love them, too.)

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free TBI Recovery Tips!

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

You're on a Roll: Read More Popular Articles on TBI Recovery

Do you want to sharpen your cognitive skills after a TBI?

Time with a speech therapist is extremely valuable during recovery, especially if you struggle with communication, critical thinking, or memory after brain injury. Insurance typically covers speech therapy for a fixed amount of time. But once it’s over, recovery is in your hands.

That’s why a team of neuroscientists and clinicians from Boston University created the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app. Designed for those recovering from stroke, TBI, or living with neurological conditions, the app contains over 100,000 cognitive exercises that are all available right from your phone or tablet. That’s like having a speech therapist by your side whenever you want!

This app is the perfect fit if you want to improve your speaking, memory, or general mental sharpness. And, it’s affordable at just $29.99/month!

Click here to learn more about the CT app

See what Miriam said about the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app:

“For the past 6 months, my son has used the app about three times a week. The app is like a virtual therapist, it’s very easy to use, and it gives him immediate feedback.

He now understands things faster, can make decisions with less hesitation, has improved recognition of words, and his confidence is higher. I also find it easy to get in touch with customer service; they pleasantly help out. The whole experience has been great.”

— Miriam

It’s like having a virtual speech therapist available anytime you want

With the CT App, you can get the guidance you need right from your phone or tablet. You can use it on your own or in between sessions with your speech therapist.

Whether you struggle with aphasia, memory loss, or critical thinking, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can help.

“The CT app has helped me gather my confidence by building on and reinforcing old forgotten skills. It helps to see my percentages increase, and work harder when they decrease. It’s very self-motivating.” -Kathryn

We are confident that this app will help improve your speech and cognitive function after brain injury. Like our recovery tools, the CT App is also covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee.

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Do you know these 15 TBI recovery tips?

Get a free copy of our ebook 15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know. Click here to get instant access.