If you have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, you have a greater chance of having a second stroke or TIA.
There are several things you can do to lower the chance of having another stroke including reducing your blood pressure and cholesterol, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthy foods and taking the right medications.
Medication to prevent stroke
There are many different medications your doctor may prescribe to reduce your risk of having another stroke or TIA. It is important that you understand:
- what medication(s) you are taking
- why you are taking them
- how and when you should take them (eg. with or without food)
- any side effects of your medication
- what happens if you suddenly stop taking your medication.
High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. Keeping your blood pressure controlled is essential. Medications to reduce your blood pressure are called ‘antihypertensives’ (anti = against + hypertensive = high blood pressure).
All people with a previous stroke or TIA should be on medication to reduce blood pressure. Blood pressure therapy is recommended even if your blood pressure is normal. This reduces your risk of subsequent events.
There are different types of blood pressure-lowering medications. Your doctor will work with you to find the medication, or the combination of medications, that is best for you.
You may also be advised to modify your diet or increase the amount of exercise to help reduce your blood pressure (refer to the National Stroke Foundation’s ‘High blood pressure and stroke’ brochure for more information).
Blood thinners help reduce the risk of blood clots forming which can lead to a stroke. There are two types of blood thinners:
1. Antiplatelet medication (Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors). This group of medications keep tiny cells (platelets) in the blood from sticking together and forming blood clots.
There are three common types of antiplatelet medication including:
- A combination of Aspirin and Dipyridamole
Different medications may be prescribes depending on which ones are appropriate.
2. Anticoagulant medication also stops your blood from forming clots, however this medication uses a different chemical process. Common examples include Heparin and Warfarin. If you are taking Warfarin, you may need to have your blood tested regularly to see if you have the right level of medication in your blood.
Anticoagulant medication may also be prescribed if you have atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat) or those with particular heart conditions (eg. A prosthetic heart valve).
You may bleed more easily when taking these medications. It is important you try to prevent accidents or injuries (eg. falling over) or that you tell your health professional before undergoing other medical treatment (eg. surgery). Your doctor will help you decide the most effective medication for your condition.
High cholesterol is another risk factor for stroke. You should take medication to lower your cholesterol if you’ve had an ischaemic stroke or TIA (blood clot).
You should also be given advice on how to lower your cholesterol by changing your diet, increasing regular exercise and/or reducing your weight. The most common type of medication to lower cholesterol is called ‘statins’.
Please refer to the National Stroke Foundation’s ‘High cholesterol and stroke’ brochure for more
information. You can download here.
For more infomation about medications and to download fact sheets, click here.