Patient Education for Stroke

For more than 90 years, Baptist Health has been delivering quality healthcare to the citizens of Arkansas. As part of our mission, we are committed to promoting health education like the resources found below. For even more comprehensive health education, visit our health encyclopedia.

Risk Factors

Knowing your risk factors and living healthy are the best steps you can take to prevent stroke. Be sure to talk with your physician about the following risk factors that can be changed, treated or medically-managed:

Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)
Afib is a type of irregular or "racing" heartbeat that can cause blood to collect in the heart and potentially form a clot, which can travel to a person's brain and cause a stroke or brain attack. This condition increases a person's risk for stroke by 500%. Plus, three out of four Afib-related strokes can be prevented. Afib-related strokes are also more deadly. In fact, more than 70% of Afib patients who have strokes will die as a result. While an estimated 2.2 million people are diagnosed with Afib, it is estimated that one-third of Americans who have it are still undiagnosed. Treatments are available for Afib if it is diagnosed properly. Find out more about Atrial FibrillationLa fibrilación auricular (FA) y el derrame cerebral.

Cigarette Smoking
Apart from other risk factors, smoking almost doubles the risk for ischemic stroke (blockage of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain). Men who smoke increase their risk for bleeding stroke every time they light up, says the American Stroke Association. An 18-year study of more than 20,000 men found that those who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day double their stroke risk compared with people who have never smoked or those who've kicked their habits. Get the facts about smoking and stroke riskEstar libre de humo: Datos sobre tabaquismo y riesgo de derrames cerebrales.

High Blood Pressure
The most important controllable risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. High blood pressure (140/90 or higher) can damage blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, reducing the systolic (top) number by 12 to 13 points can decrease the risk for a stroke by 37 percent. Learn more about stroke and high blood pressureDerrame Cerebral y hipertensión arterial.

High Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels can contribute to atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries) caused by a buildup of plaque (deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium). Plaque buildup on the inside of the walls of arteries can decrease the amount of blood flow to the brain. Find out how cholesterol affects stroke riskEl colesterol y el derrame cerebral.

While controllable, people with diabetes have two to four times the risk of having a stroke than someone without diabetes. Blood pressure for people with diabetes should be 130/80 or less to reduce the risk of stroke. Learn more about stroke and diabetesLa diabetes y el derrame cerebral.

Excessive Alcohol Use
More than two drinks per day raises blood pressure, and binge drinking can lead to stroke.

Lack of Exercise
Lack of exercise and physical inactivity increases the risk for stroke. Gradually build up to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, at least five days a week.

Excess weight increases the risk for stroke. To determine if your weight is in a healthy range, check your body mass index online.
Click here to take the obesity quiz


Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day is recommended for most adults.  Talk with your doctor about any special considerations for your exercise plan to maintain a healthy weight. Learn more about getting and staying healthy at

Healthy Eating
Eating well after stroke is key to your recovery. Choosing healthy foods can help you keep up your energy level for therapy, exercise and favorite activities. And, healthy eating will be easier once you learn to deal with new eating challenges brought on by your stroke. La recuperación después del derrame cerebral: alimentación sana. 

Mediterranean Diet
Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries. Learn more about the Mediterranean Diet.

Potassium Reduces Risk
Eating foods that contain potassium could reduce your risk for stroke. One study in the journal Stroke found that people who consumed fewer than 2,300 mg of potassium per day had a 50 percent higher stroke risk than those who consumed more than 4,100 mg. Good sources of potassium include baked potatoes with skin, plain yogurt, cantaloupes and honeydew melons, halibut and tuna steaks, grapefruit, orange or prune juice, bananas and molasses. 

After a Stroke

After suffering a stroke, individuals may suffer from any number of the following ailments:

Bladder and Bowl Function
Problems with bladder and bowel function are common but distressing for stroke survivors. “Going to the bathroom” after suffering a stroke may be complicated by urinary incontinence and retention, constipation, and bowel incontinence. Learn more about bladder and bowel function following a stroke. Recuperación Después del Derrame Cerebral: Función de la Vejiga y del Intestino.

Coping with Emotions
Dealing with a flood of emotions can be hard for stroke survivors. Some emotions are normal responses to the changes in your life after stroke. Others are common but should not be considered a normal part of stroke recovery. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or emotions that are not in line with the occasion, seek help. Read about symptoms and tips for emotions following a stroke.

Feeling tired is a common complaint after a stroke. About 30-70% of survivors suffer from fatigue. It can be frustrating and can slow down recovery. It can even affect those who are doing well after stroke. Learn about managing fatigue after a stroke. Recuperación Después del Derrame Cerebral: Control de la Fatiga.

Speech difficulty
One of the more common problems after a stroke is communication difficulty.  Individuals may stumble over their words, slur them, or be unable to get the words out.  This can create distressing and frustrating feelings for both stroke survivors and family members.  See the link on Speech and Cognitive Impairments for more information.

Varying Levels of Disability
Strokes can range from mild to debilitating with a range of possible disabilities in between.  There are a lot of resources for stroke survivors learning to cope with new disabilities.  One resource is through Baptist Health's monthly Stroke Support Group meetings.  Find the information under Treatment and Technology.

Stroke Resources

National Stroke Association
American Stroke Association
The Stroke Network

Resources for Healthcare Professionals:
Stroke Awareness
Brain Attack Coalition
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Dr. Dharmadhikari talks about the typical signs and symptoms of a stroke as well as those not as recognizable.
Brant tells of his experience having a stroke and the difference that seeking care immediately made in his recovery.