Malnutrition is a common and often unrecognized problem in stroke patients, especially the elderly, admitted to hospital. Those who remain in hospital for prolonged periods are also at risk. Inevitably, the reported frequency of malnutrition after stroke has varied depending on patient selection, the definitions of malnutrition and the method and timing of assessments.
Some stroke patients have a loss of appetite. For others, eating may be difficult due to swallowing problems or limited hand or arm movement.Poor nutrition, although not specifically in stroke patients, has been associated with reduced muscle strength, reduced resistance to infection and impaired wound healing. Among patients with stroke, most of whom are elderly, muscle weakness, infections and pressure sores are common and account for significant mortality and morbidity. It is plausible that malnutrition could increase the frequency of these
problems and result in poorer outcomes.
Therefore, 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.
- 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.
- Choose and prepare foods with little salt (sodium).
- 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.
- 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.
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.