Nutrition and Fitness for Stroke Patients: How Diet and Exercise Support a Stroke Patient’s Recovery

Singapore receives approximately 26 stroke cases every day. This debilitating disease is one of the leading causes for physical and cognitive disabilities; optimal diet, nutrition are and medical support is essential for proper rehabilitation.

In this guide, we cover how stroke patients can decrease their risk of experiencing greater medical complications by incorporating a balanced diet and regular exercise into their daily routines. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of improving fitness and nutrition for recovering stroke patients.

1. The Impact a Stroke Has on the Body

A stroke is a cardiovascular disease that occurs when the brain fails to receive enough oxygen. Generally, this is due to a clot or rupture in any of the blood vessels carrying oxygen to the brain which hinders proper blood flow and quickly damages brain cells.

Although there are several types of strokes, they will all typically result in life-altering conditions that require rehabilitation and medication. Depending on the area of the brain that suffered from a lack of oxygen, a stroke can affect any of the following:

  • Personality
  • Motor skills
  • Sense perception
  • Complex thinking processes
  • Memory
  • Vision
  • Language 
  • Emotion regulation

2. How Lifestyle Habits Influence the Chance of a Stroke

According to the American Heart Association, strokes are commonly correlated to inactive lifestyles and poor nutrition. To reduce a recurrent stroke from taking place, patients must begin engaging in healthier lifestyle habits as they recover. This means avoiding smoking, heavy drinking, and overeating. Additionally, stressful activities and interactions should be minimised. For more lifestyle tips to prevent stroke recurrence, check out our article on post-stroke care here

3. The Benefits of Exercise for Stroke Patients

Physical exercise strengthens muscles, improves endurance, and boosts immunity – all of which are helpful for both preventing and recovering from a stroke. According to research, there is a correlation between patients who incorporate exercise to their post-stroke routines and improvements in balance, mobility, and cognitive function.

Since a stroke is often accompanied with physical disabilities and/or mental impairments, physical activity through rehabilitation or exercise reconditions the body to perform daily tasks without as much strain. 

4. Recommended Exercises for Stroke Patients

Strokes affect different parts of the brain, which results in different physical symptoms in each individual survivor. Some patients experience balance issues, others their ability to move. Patients recovering from a stroke should take things slowly by performing light to moderate physical exercises under the supervision of their physiotherapist or doctor. Examples of exercises that can be helpful for stroke patients are:

  • Reach & Grasp – This exercise can be done seated with one hand placed on a table in front of the patient. The patient can slowly extend their arm and fingertips as if they were reaching for an object. Once they’ve performed this motion, they should move their hand back towards their body at the same pace. 
  • Trunk Rotation – to perform this light core exercise, patients can remain seated with one hand on their lap and the other holding their wrist. They will then move the hand on their lap to the opposite leg and carefully twist their body to the side.
  • Walking – Patients with greater mobility can go for short walks or use a treadmill for a few minutes every day to improve blood circulation and cardiovascular health.
  • Yoga – With the support of a professional instructor or therapist, yoga can be done to improve balance and breathing. By stretching one’s muscles regularly, the body becomes less stiff which gives patients better control over their movement.
  • Strength training – Using light weights or water bottles to perform sets of various exercises increases muscle strength, particularly in the upper body. While more research is being developed on its long-term effectiveness in treating disabilities, some studies suggest that it improves upper-limb function.

Here are some further exercise tips to remember on your road to recovery:

  • Safety – When exercising according to your rehabilitation program, have a caregiver nearby to watch for your safety. The caregiver can also help you remember the exercise sequence.
  • Assistance – Some stroke survivors have trouble with reading and memory. They need assistance to read exercise instructions or remember exercise sequence. Assistance from a family member or friend can help guide the survivor follow through exercise regime during their stroke rehabilitation period. 
  • Schedule – Plan your rehabilitation exercises during the day when you feel awake and alert. Invite a family member or friend over to motivate and assist you in your exercises.
Ninkatec_Infographic_Stroke_Exercise for post-stroke recovery

Useful Exercises & Exercise Tips for Post-Stroke Recovery

5. What Stroke Patients Should Eat

The second key to a quick recovery is nutrition. Stroke patients need nutrients and energy to rebuild the cognitive and physical functions affected by the stroke. Yet, up to 61% stroke survivors, especially the elderlies, do not receive adequate vitamins and minerals, and commonly suffer from malnutrition. After a stroke, eating can be challenging after for the following reasons:

  • Difficulty swallowing after a stroke: Known as dysphagia, this is a common post-stroke side effects that makes patients not wanting to eat.
  • Difficulty using dining utensils: This often happens due to an overall paralysis and muscle weakness, particularly on the dominant side of the body. When holding a spoon or chopsticks is too challenging, it is natural that the individual eats less or not at all.
  • Loss of appetite: Poor appetite after a stroke may be a direct side effect of a stroke, or an indirect consequence due to another side effect, such as the troubles with eating as listed above, or anxiety, depression, or loss of sleep developed after a stroke, or medications the patient is taking. Use our general guide on how to stimulate an elderly’s appetite here to improve their nutrition intake.  
  • General fatigue and body weakness: This is true for all patients recovering from any serious illness, including strokes. In addition to fatigue and poor appetite, a patient may have their favourite food that they are too weak to prepare now. This adds up to the challenges to get sufficient nutrition & calories, resulting in less effective recovery and even malnutrition in the long run. 

To ensure healthy nutrition intake during stroke recovery, it’s important to not only eat the right types of food but also to maintain a healthy calorie count. To do this, the first and foremost task is to identify which of the above causes make eating a trouble for your stroke-affected loved one and overcome it. When it comes to food choices, in general, foods high in protein such as lean meat, fish and eggs and healthy cooking methods that are low in fat, sugar and salt are helpful. Patients with a poor appetite can focus on eating more calorie-dense and nutritious foods, in comfortable portion and easy-to-eat servings. 

Check out our articles for additional tips to improve eating habit for your loved ones below:  

6. Why It Is So Important to Maintain Fitness & Nutrition after a Stroke

For stroke survivors, the journey to rebuild physical and cognitive strength requires additional resources, in which nutrition and exercises are important sources. Making necessary lifestyle changes as early as possible is the best course of action to prevent a recurrent stroke and complications during stroke recovery. During recovery, a stroke patient’s health is already compromised which makes it crucial to improve their fitness and nutrition to avoid any medical complications that could worsen their condition. Aside from recurrence, stroke victims who suffer from malnutrition are slower to recover and more likely to contract diseases such as pneumonia, infections, pressure sores, etc.

7. How Ninkatec Assists Stroke Patients

Ninkatec provides high-quality home care services for anyone who requires medical support or assistance. As one of Singapore’s leading healthcare providers, Ninkatec guarantees that every patient’s individualised needs are met every step of the way. We provide specialised care for stroke patients to recuperate comfortably and effectively at home, with our Stroke Care Service.

With a patient-centred approach, we focus on prioritising the comfort and medical convenience for each of our client, based on their unique need and circumstance. When an appointment is scheduled, the current health condition of the stroke patient is assessed by our medical staff who will recommend one of the following care plans:

  • Virtual Care – provides remote access to virtually check in on patients at any time of the day.
  • Right At Home – best for patients with relatively stable conditions and need little assistance.
  • Close Connect – for stroke patients who require daily medical assistance and supervision, especially post-surgery.

8. Prioritise Health and Wellness with Ninkatec

Recovering from a stroke takes a heavy toll on an individual’s body. While the disease presents plenty of physical and mental challenges, receiving optimal medical support and assistance may relieve some of the burden for stroke patients and their families. Tap on Ninkatec’s intensive stroke care resources for additional guidance on various aspects of recovering from a stroke, such as preventing stroke recurrence, mental health for stroke patients and much more. For any other concerns or questions, Ninkatec’s team of health care professionals and medical experts are just a phone call or chat message away to be your partner on the road to recovery.

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