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2 Keys to Preventing Recurrent Stroke

Posted by Teresa Bitler Oct 01 2015

High blood pressure can put you at risk for having another stroke. So can depression. According to a new study, though, the risk skyrockets to more than 80 percent for stroke survivors experiencing both. Take these precautions to ensure you don’t fall into either category.

Understanding the Risk

The study found that, in the first four years after a stroke or heart attack, depressed survivors with high blood pressure were 83 percent more likely to have another stroke or heart attack, heart failure, or die due to heart disease than were their counterparts who had normal blood pressure and were not depressed.

It is such a significant percentage that the study suggests doctors should not only closely monitor stroke survivors’ blood pressure but also screen them for depression.

Managing High Blood Pressure

Your doctor probably already closely monitors your blood pressure and, if necessary, has prescribed medication to keep it within a normal range (typically, 120-140 over 80-90). To reduce your risk of another stroke, take your medications as prescribed and monitor your blood pressure at home to ensure it is not fluctuating between visits.

These steps can also help keep your blood pressure under control:
• Eating a healthy diet
• Reducing salt intake
• Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight
• Managing stress
• Avoiding smoking
• Limiting alcohol consumption

Diagnosing Depression

After a stroke, diagnosing depression can be a challenge since nearly half of all stroke survivors experience the pseudobular affect (PBA)—sudden outbursts of uncontrollable crying or laughing—in the first few months after a stroke. This online quiz can help you determine whether you might be one of them.

In any case, if you or a loved one has survived a stroke, it’s important to know the signs of depression:
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
• Feeling hopeless
• Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
• Feeling irritable
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
• Decreased energy or fatigue
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
• Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
• Appetite and/or weight changes
• Thoughts of death or suicide
• Ongoing aches or pains

Treating Depression

If you think you or your loved one might be depressed, talk to your doctor. He or she can prescribe a treatment plan that may include medication and/or psychotherapy (talk therapy). 

In addition to your doctor’s recommendations, you can:
• Get involved in activities with family or friends
• Find a support group
• Exercise
• Volunteer to help others 

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