Medications may help reduce the risk of another stroke or ease long-term symptoms.
After a stroke, your doctor will likely prescribe one or more medications. These medicines serve a variety of functions: to ease the lingering effects of the stroke, and to manage your risk factors of a second stroke. The right treatment plan for you will depend on your individual risk factors and symptoms.
What medications help prevent another stroke?
Your doctor will likely prescribe medications to lower your risk of another stroke. This involves assessing your individual risk factors that may affect your cardiovascular health.
The medications to prevent strokes fall into the following categories:
- Medicines to lower blood pressure: High blood pressure weakens the blood vessels. This makes them more likely to burst or clog, increasing the risk of a stroke.
- Blood thinners: These help with blood clots, which can lead to stroke. These are also called anticoagulants or anti-clotting medicines. Blood thinners aren’t right for everyone, but are often used for people who have strokes caused by atrial fibrillation.
- Medicines to improve cholesterol levels: High cholesterol can lead to plaque on the sides of artery walls. Plaque becomes brittle and can easily break off. This may travel through the blood vessel and get stuck and cause a blockage. If this is in an artery that leads to the brain, it may cause a stroke.
- Glucose-lowering medications: High blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels. This may worsen blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels.
What medicines may help with long-term symptoms?
Strokes may cause symptoms that can last weeks, months, or even years after. Symptoms may include:
- Paralysis, weakness, numbness, or tingling
- Changes in thinking, memory, or judgment
- Changes in mood and emotions, including depression
- Difficulty speaking and understanding others
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
Stroke rehabilitation can help your stroke recovery by helping you regain or improve many of these functions. For example, speech therapy can help you regain speaking skills, comprehension skills, and even your ability to swallow.
In other cases, medications may be helpful. These include:
- Antidepressants to treat depression
- Antispasmodic medications to treat muscle tightness (spasticity)
- Antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections, a common complication after stroke due to bladder issues
These medications may be temporary, as the symptoms after a stroke may go away eventually. Be honest with your doctor about what you’re experiencing after a stroke. There are many options available to make stroke recovery a little easier based on your individual needs.
- American Heart Association. 2016. How high blood pressure can lead to stroke.
- American Stroke Association. 2020. What is cholesterol?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Stroke: conditions.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Diabetes: heart disease.
- UpToDate. 2021. Patient education: ischemic stroke treatment (beyond the basics).