Many stroke patients experience anxiety over having another stroke. If you’re curious about second stroke survival, we have some answers for you.
While the statistics on second stroke survival might seem grim, it’s important to remember that stroke survival rates are the best they have ever been.
You’re about to discover more statistics on second stroke survival, along with actionable steps you can take to reduce your risk of recurrent stroke.
What Is The Risk of a Second Stroke?
The riskiest time for a second stroke occurs during the first three months after the initial infarction, according to Dr. Jodi Edwards, a postdoctoral fellow at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center.
During these first 3 months, the person’s risk of stroke is 15 times higher than the general population. One year later, the risk is reduced, but survivors are still seven times more likely to suffer a second stroke.
This makes it even more crucial to follow all the advice your doctor provides to help manage your stroke risk factors (which we will discuss soon).
After these first few months, a patient’s risk of a second stroke remains elevated for at least five years, according to recent studies.
These statistics are grim, and the risk of recurrent stroke is one of the biggest causes of post-stroke anxiety. Fortunately, by taking steps to improve your health, you can help reduce your risk of a second stroke.
Factors that Affect Second Stroke Survival
Each year, 795,000 strokes occur in the United States. Of those, around 23% are recurrent strokes.
That’s the bad news. But the good news is stroke treatment and rehabilitation methods have vastly improved over the last decade. So much so, in fact, that stroke survival rates are the best they have ever been.
However, even with advanced treatments, second strokes are still a serious matter. That’s why emphasis on stroke prevention is so critical.
To reduce the likelihood of a second stroke, it helps to focus on the factors that put patients at greater risk. According to researchers, these factors include:
- Chronic hypertension
- High cholesterol
- Prolonged inactivity
Therefore, stroke prevention techniques should focus on addressing these problems before they become too serious.
Preventing a Second Stroke
According to the Copenhagen Stroke Study, around 25% of stroke survivors experience a second stroke. Fortunately, it is possible to reduce your likelihood of recurrent stroke by taking the correct precautions.
The following are some of the most effective ways to reduce your chances of a second stroke:
1. Quit Smoking
Tobacco contains over 7,000 harmful chemicals, including carbon monoxide. When you inhale cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide and nicotine enter your bloodstream. The carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, causing your heart to pump faster to compensate.
This in turn raises your blood pressure, which increases your risk of a second stroke. The chemicals in cigarette smoke also make your blood platelets more likely to stick together, increasing the chances of a blood clot.
All of these factors make smoking one of the most dangerous activities for stroke patients. Therefore, if you haven’t quit yet, now is the time. The risks are just not worth it.
2. Practice Cardiovascular Exercises
The more active you are, the stronger your heart gets, which means it can pump with less effort. This puts less strain on your arteries and will lower your risk of a second stroke.
In fact, exercising enough to break a sweat a few times a week can reduce your risk of second stroke by around 20 percent.
Some examples of cardio activities you can do at home include:
- Walks around your neighborhood
- Short bike rides
Unfortunately, mobility impairments after a stroke can make cardio exercises difficult for many patients. If that is the case, keep up with your daily rehab exercises until your motor skills improve.
3. Manage Anxiety
Anxiety after stroke is extremely common. However, living with long-term anxiety raises your blood pressure and can increase your risk of a second stroke.
Therefore, it is critical to take measures to manage your post-stroke anxiety. Some methods you can use include
- Regular exercise
- Avoiding anxiety-inducing foods
If these methods do not work for you, talk to your doctor about any anti-anxiety medications that might help.
4. Monitor Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the most controllable risk factors for stroke. Therefore, stroke patients should make sure to monitor their blood pressure by having a blood pressure machine at home to use.
Additionally, it is very important to take any medications doctors recommend. If you take blood pressure medication, be sure not to miss a dose and always pick up your next month’s supply before your current bottle runs out. That way, you won’t have to miss any doses between bottles. Skipping doses of blood pressure medication is very dangerous and increases your likelihood of having a stroke.
It’s also important to make dietary changes to help lower your blood pressure. One easy change you can make is to cut down on your salt intake.
However, while too much salt has been linked to stroke, recent research shows that low sodium intake can also increase a person’s risk of stroke.
While this does not mean you can now eat as much salt as you want, it does mean that moderation is key. Be sure to read labels of canned/pre-packaged food, as these often are very high in sodium.
5. Follow a Mediterranean Diet
A Mediterranean diet, which is generally low in cholesterol, can reduce your risk of a second stroke by 21 percent.
The main components of a Mediterranean diet include:
- Lots of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Fish and poultry
- Red wine
Most of these foods are also clinically proven to boost stroke recovery, which makes a Mediterranean diet even more beneficial for stroke patients.
Mediterranean diets also discourage certain foods such as dairy products and red meat.
Understanding Second Stroke Survival and Prevention
Second strokes are serious medical emergencies, and the risk of recurrent stroke increases greatly after a single stroke. All of this makes second stroke prevention a crucial part of recovery.
By exercising, managing your post-stroke anxiety, and following a healthy diet, you can dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing a second stroke. These methods can also help make your recovery a success.