Two keys to beating stroke

I'll never forget the call. It was one of my patients on the phone from Hong Kong. He didn't sound like himself at all, but it wasn't a problem with the long-distance connection.

It was the fact that he had just had a stroke. Not only was it affecting his speech, but he was also -- rightly -- panicked.

And he wanted to know what to do.

Sometimes, you can do everything right and still suffer a stroke. And sometimes, it takes a scare like a stroke to act as a wakeup call for you to finally take the healthy steps you should've taken long ago.

Either way, recovering from a stroke requires some major lifestyle changes -- but they're changes you can and should make, because they can restore you to the lifestyle you had before, ensure that you avoid a second (and potentially fatal) stroke and help you to become healthier than ever.

And we can break them down into two basics: food and exercise.

Let's start with the exercise, because I've got a new scientific statement on this that needs to be seen by every stroke victim and everyone who's helping someone battle back from a stroke.

When most people return home from the hospital, they feel too weak to exercise -- and even if they can move, they worry that they could strain themselves and cause another stroke.

Most patients don't ask their doctors about exercise, and most doctors don't encourage it.

But the new scientific statement from the American Stroke Association and American Heart Association says that needs to change -- because there's convincing evidence that exercise is critical to your recovery, helping to restore physical function and improve your mental health after a stroke.

Now, I'm not one to kowtow to the AHA and ASA on anything. God knows, they get it wrong about as often as they get it right.

But here's a case where they're 100 percent correct, because the science shows that exercise alone is actually more powerful than drugs at protecting you after a stroke.

What's more, not exercising after a stroke -- and even fear of that activity -- can set the stage for a greater physical and mental decline than what was caused by the stroke itself.

So get moving. I know after a stroke you're weak and scared, and maybe even suffering from physical disability. So start small -- the new scientific statement suggest basic walking or even household chores are a great place to start.

Work with your doctor or physical therapist on a plan that's right for you -- but don't stop there, because the other half to stroke recovery involves your diet, and if you're a regular reader, you probably know what I'm going to recommend: the Mediterranean diet.

It's the diet I recommended to my patient when he called from Hong Kong, and it's not only because it's a great way to lose weight and protect the heart and brain.

It's because this diet is scientifically proven to slash the risk of a stroke.

One major study in 2012 found that this healthy and delicious lifestyle can cut your risk of a stroke by nearly half.

You can read more about that benefit in this free report from my House Calls archives.