Nutrition Tips for Stroke Survivors
Healthy food habits can help you reduce three risk factors for stroke — poor cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and excess weight. Diets high in saturated fat and trans fat can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium can contribute to increased blood pressure, and high-calorie diets can contribute to obesity. A diet with five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may reduce the risk of stroke.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association offers these recommendations for a healthy diet:
- Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
- Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
- Eat fish at least twice a week.
- Limit saturated fat and trans fat. Avoiding partially hydrogenated oils will reduce trans fats.
- Choose lean meats and poultry, and prepare them without using saturated or trans fats.
- Select low-fat dairy products.
- Cut back on drinks and foods with added sugars. The AHA recommends that no more than half of your discretionary calories should come from added sugars. For most American women, the discretionary calorie allowance is no more than 100 calories and no more than 150 calories for men.
- Choose and prepare foods with little salt (sodium). The AHA recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium a day.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Limit yourself to one drink per day if you’re a non-pregnant woman or two drinks if you’re a man.
- Read our full dietary guidelines for more information.
- Get tips for dining out.
- Prepare healthy recipes at home — try one of our free recipes tonight.
- Find more nutrition resources including how to read food labels in our nutrition center.
To Get the Nutrition You Need
Some stroke survivors have a loss of appetite. For others, eating may be difficult due to swallowing problems or limited hand or arm movement. In any case, talk to your healthcare team to make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need. To make eating a little easier again, try these steps:
- Choose healthy foods with stronger flavors, such as broiled fish and citrus fruits. Also, spices add flavor to food and serve as a good substitute for salt.
- Choose colorful, visually appealing foods, such as salmon, carrots and dark green vegetables.
- Cut foods into small pieces to make them easier to chew.
- Pick softer, easier-to-chew foods, such as yogurt, bananas, whole-grain hot cereals and low sodium soups.
- If you have trouble swallowing, talk to your speech therapist or doctor. This condition can be treated.
- If weakness in arms or hands is a problem, you might try adaptive eating utensils. Some types of flatware have thicker handles that are easier to hold, and “rocker knives” make it possible to cut food using one hand.
Making Mealtime Easier
When stroke survivors have lost their appetites, caregivers can help by:
Food For Thought
- Sharing meals with the survivor at regular times during the day.
- Setting a leisurely pace for the meal.
- Serving foods that the survivor wants.
- Encouraging healthy snacks or small meals throughout the day.
- Reducing distractions during meals.
- Watching for any problems the survivor may have with chewing or swallowing.
A heart-healthy diet is also good for your brain. Learn why.
Cooking for Health Nourishing Good Eating Habits (PDF)
What you eat and how you prepare it can help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease. The right diet can help improve your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and can help you feel better and have more energy.
For many stroke survivors, loss of appetite is a common problem. Even when appetite isn't affected, other challenges can make getting the proper nutrition seem like a chore. But a healthy diet is an important part of recovery, and it helps reduce the risk of another stroke.
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This content was last reviewed on 05/01/14.