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Stroke Prevention

A Natural Approach

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada, with one stroke occurring every 10 minutes. Unfortunately the general public knows far less about strokes than the other leading diseases.

A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function due to brain cell death. The cell death is caused by lack of blood reaching brain cells. There are two basic types of strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic is caused by the interruption of flow of blood to the brain and accounts for 80% of strokes. Hemorrhagic is the rupture of blood vessels inside the brain and accounts for 20% of strokes. In both cases blood flow is interrupted to part(s) of the brain, causing cells to be deprived of blood (and oxygen) causing them to die. 

Your brain is an extremely complex organ, the most complex organ known. It consists of billions of nerve cells that control every facet of your body, memory, feelings and personality. These nerve cells (like all your cells) depend on the nutrients and oxygen in blood. Without constant blood flow, they die. Unlike some other cells in your body, these nerve cells cannot repair themselves or regenerate. The longer your brain goes without proper blood flow, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage. For every minute delay in treating a stroke, the average patient permanently loses 1.9 million brain cells. Bodily functions affected by a stroke depend upon which area of the brain was damaged and the extent of the damage.

There are 5 warning signs to a stroke (from Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada) . If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately. If you are diagnosed with an ischemic stroke, doctors can treat it with a drug available only at a hospital, but it is only effective within a few hours after symptoms begin

Weakness – Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary
Trouble speaking – Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary
Vision problems – Sudden problems with vision even if temporary
Headache – Sudden severe and unusual headache
Dizziness – Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs

Preventing Strokes

The risk of having a stroke increases with age, and men are at greater risk than women until menopause at which point a woman’s risk increases. Your risk also increases if a first degree family member (parent, sibling, child) had a stroke before age 65. Despite these factors, you can reduce your risk of a stroke dramatically.

Elevated Blood Pressure, high Cholesterol, Diabetes, smoking, Atrial Fibrillation, being overweight or obese, and little to no exercise all increase your risk of stroke dramatically.

In general, leading a healthy lifestyle with weight, and stress in check reduces your risk of stroke (as well as many other diseases including heart disease). The usual activities work; more fruits, vegetables, and exercise. Less fat, smoking and stress. Essentially living clean.

Supplements

Fiber
Three of the primary risk factors for stroke are cholesterol, diabetes and overweight/obesity. Fiber is unique at being able to reduce all three of these risk factors at the same time. Adequate fiber intake daily can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity in addition to being beneficial for treating or preventing digestive issues, constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.

B vitamins
The large scale Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation 2 trial studied over 5500 men and women for five years and found a 25% lower risk of stroke in
at-risk individuals. The combination they were studying was a mixture of vitamin B6, folic acid (folate) and vitamin B12. When taken regularly, this vitamin combination lowers blood levels of a compound called homo-cysteine. The risk of heart disease and stroke is significantly increased when your blood has high levels of homo-cysteine.

Conveniently, you can buy a taste-free, non-thickening fiber supplement containing therapeutic levels of fiber, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12. This supplement is specifically formulated to reduce homo-cysteine levels and improve heart health.

Magnesium
Magnesium, the simple mineral, can lower blood pressure inside the artery and reduce the high amounts of inflammation also accompanying the formation of arterial plaque. Magnesium can also improve insulin sensitivity which leads to less inflammation.

To make it easy to take, avoid digestive complaints and to optimize absorption, use a flavourless, unsweetened additive-free magnesium powder. Add the powder to citrus juices (orange, apple, etc) to increase absorption further.

Fish Oil
Fish oil is currently the best source of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. DHA & EPA can reduce blood pressure, inflammation, LDL cholesterol, and blood clotting. The regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids in adequate amounts has been clinically proven to lower the risk of stroke.

If you can handle it, try taking pure liquid fish oil.  If you can't take the liquid oil, you can take capsules. 4 high potency capsules (often referred to as triple strength capsules)  are equivalent to each teaspoon of liquid oil. These large capsules (1000-1400mg) each contain a minimum of 600mg EPA and 250mg DHA.

Strokes are serious and can be severely debilitating and potentially fatal, but there are many ways you can dramatically reduce your risk. To prevent strokes, you must take control of your health through lifestyle, diet and exercise. Adding proper supplementation gives you the best chance at avoiding a stroke.

 

 

Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience.  Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.