Stroke: Taking Medications

Your doctor has given you medications to reduce the risk of a stroke. But they won’t help unless you take them as prescribed. This sheet explains why and how to take your medications.

Pharmacist showing woman bottle of pills at pharmacy counter.How your medications help you

  • They make you feel better so you can do more things you enjoy.

  • They keep your blood from clotting, which helps to prevent stroke.

Types of medications

Many types of medications can help prevent stroke. You may be prescribed 1 or more of the following:

  • Anticoagulant (“blood thinning”) medications help prevent blood clots from forming. If you take a blood thinner, you may need regular blood tests.

  • Antiplatelets, such as aspirin, are prescribed for many stroke patients. They make blood clots less likely to form. Aspirin is available over the counter.  

  • Blood pressure medications help lower high blood pressure. You may need to take more than one blood pressure medication.. 

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs make plaque less likely to build up in your artery walls, which can decrease the risk of stroke.

  • Heart medications can treat certain heart problems that increase your risk of stroke.

  • Diabetes medications adjust blood sugar levels. This can prevent problems that lead to stroke.

Know which medications you take

To help keep my blood from clotting,

I take:__________________________________________

To keep my blood pressure lower so it’s easier for my heart to pump,

I take:__________________________________________

Medication tips

Below are tips for taking medication. Keep in mind that most medications need to be taken every day — even when you feel fine. Ask your doctor if you need to avoid certain foods or alcohol. Also mention if you have problems affording medication.

  • Have a routine. Take medication at the same time each day. Use reminders to help stay on track. Some people find using a pill box to organize medications helpful for this. 

  • Take all your medications. Some medications work best when used with others. Don’t take one type and skip another.

  • Plan ahead. Refill prescriptions before they run out. Be sure to take medications along if you travel.

  • Never change your dosage or stop taking medication on your own. And if you miss a pill, don’t take 2 the next time.

  • Tell your doctor if any medication causes side effects. Your doctor may change your dose or prescribe a new medication.

  • Carry a list of your medications. Bring the list to appointments with health care providers.

For family and friends

Medications can play a key role in preventing stroke. This is especially true for people who have already experienced stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). To provide support:

  • Make sure your loved one knows how the medications work and when to take them. Check often to ensure they’re taken as directed.

  • Know whether any medication reacts with certain foods or alcohol.

  • Watch for side effects. Call the doctor if any medication causes excess bruising, nosebleeds, dizziness, or blurred vision.

Call your doctor

 Contact your doctor right away if you:

  • Have side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, headache, coughing, swelling, or a skin rash.

  • Are gaining weight.

  • Miss a dose of any of your medications for a prolonged length of time.

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© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.