Understanding Medication Following a Stroke

After a person has a stroke, they are at higher risk to have another. However, medication can significantly reduce this risk. It is important that a stroke survivor always take their prescribed medication. They should not stop taking a medication or change the dosage without speaking to their doctor.

Common Medications Prescribed Post-Stroke

Blood Pressure Medication

High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke. Keeping your loved one’s blood pressure in a normal range is very important.  High pressure can cause arteries to thicken over time, which causes the them to become weaker and less flexible. Weak arteries make a person more prone to clot formation, which can cause strokes.

  • Anti-hypertensives are medicines taken to lower your blood pressure.

Cholesterol-lowering Medication

High cholesterol can lead to fatty build-up in the artery walls. This can narrow or block an artery in the brain, causing a stroke.

  • Statins  are the most common type of medication used to control cholesterol levels. Statins are effective in reducing the risk of strokes caused by a blocked blood vessel. This type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke. Statins may be prescribed for stroke survivors as a preventative measure, even when their cholesterol levels are normal.

Blood-thinning Medication

Blood clots can travel through the bloodstream and block an artery in the brain, causing a stroke. Blood-thinning medication can help prevent blood clots from forming. It is important to remember that blood thinners can make you bleed more easily. Tell the doctor your loved one is taking blood thinners before they have medical treatments or surgery.

  • Antiplatelet  medications stop platelets, tiny blood cells, from sticking together and forming blood clots. Common antiplatelet medications are aspirin, a combination of aspirin and dipyridamole, and clopidogrel.
  • Anticoagulant medications stop your blood from forming clots in a different way than antiplatelet medications. Some common anticoagulatant medications are dabigatran, apixaban and rivaroxaban.

Managing Your Loved One’s Medications

Here is some practical guidance on how best to manage your loved one’s medications:

  • Set timers or alarms to make sure medications are taken at the same time every day
  • Download an app on your smartphone that reminds you to administer the medications, as well as when you are due for a refill or a new prescription
  • Keep medications in the same place so they are not misplaced
  • Keep medications where they will be taken each day (bathroom counter, kitchen table, bedside table).
  • Use a  pill organizer  that shows the day of the week and time of day.
  • Ask your pharmacist to pack all the medicines into a blister pack.
  • Keep a list of all your loved one’s medications with you at all times in case of an emergency or if you need to share them with a new doctor.

Traveling

When traveling, be sure to take enough medication for the entire trip. If checking a bag, it’s recommended that you keep a few days’ supply of all medications with you in your hand luggage. Take a list of your medicines and the dose in case you need to see a doctor while traveling. 

Side  Effects and  Interactions

It is important for your loved one to take the correct medication and dosage until the doctor tells them otherwise. It can be very dangerous to suddenly stop taking medicines or change the dose.

Sometimes medicines do not work as they are supposed to. Make sure you tell your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist about everything he/she is taking. This includes over-the-counter medicines, natural remedies, and vitamins.

If you are worried or have questions about your loved one’s medications, speak to the doctor or pharmacist immediately. The doctor may be able to make changes to reduce or eliminate any side effects or interactions. They can also organize a medication management review if needed.

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