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After a stroke, doctors often prescribe medication, as well as lifestyle changes, to help reduce your risk of another stroke. Dr David Buckle, a GP and one of our charity’s trustees, tells us more about these preventative medications, and why it’s important to take them.

How do doctors know what will reduce my risk of another stroke?

Your doctor will consider whether your stroke was caused by a clot or a bleed and why it happened. They’ll then prescribe medication aimed at reducing the risk of it happening again. They’ll also consider other health conditions you might have, other medications you might already be on and your age.

What medicines are prescribed?

If you have a stroke caused by a clot in your brain (an ischaemic stroke), doctors will usually prescribe ”blood-thinners”, to reduce the risk of clots forming in your blood. There are two types:

  • Antiplatelets, for example clopidogrel, aspirin or dipyridamole, are usually given just after a stroke or TIA. They stop platelets (small, sticky cells in the blood) from clotting inside your body.
  • If your stroke was caused by a heart condition, like atrial fibrillation, doctors may move you on to anticoagulants (such as apixaban) to reduce unwanted blood clots in the long term.

Most strokes are caused by a blood clot. If your stroke was caused by a bleed, the doctors will have searched for a treatable cause.

Whatever the cause of your stroke, it is important to make lifestyle changes as well as keeping up with your medication. For example, reducing your blood pressure by exercising regularly, changing your diet and stopping smoking.

Should I still be taking medication even when I feel better?

Blood-thinners typically won’t make you feel different because they’re prescribed to reduce your risk of future strokes, rather than to help you recover from anything. It’s important that you keep taking them for as long as you’ve been prescribed them.

However, as with all medications, they can cause side effects. If you have side effects, please don’t stop taking your medication because it is reducing your chance of another stroke. Contact your GP, pharmacist or 111 for advice.

You should have regular checks while taking blood-thinners. If you have questions about your medication, keep taking it but ask your GP or pharmacist to talk to you about it and make sure it’s still the best one for you.

Stroke Prevention Day

Stroke Prevention Day is on 25 January 2024. Visit our Stroke Prevention Day 2024 page to find out how you can help stop stroke by encouraging your loved ones to check their pulse for an irregular rhythm.  

Stroke News magazine

This is an updated version of the article featured in the winter 2023 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.