When a stroke strikes, time is of the essence. Stroke patients need targeted medical intervention within the first couple of hours to prevent brain cell death and help save their lives. But long-term stroke prevention also needs to be a priority.
The sooner you can reduce your stroke risk factors, the better your chances of avoiding this all-too-common event. Since strokes fall under the category of chronic cardiovascular disease (a slow-moving condition), they require long-term defenses. Diet and lifestyle changes, along with specific supplements, offer ongoing support to reduce not just stroke risk, but other cardiovascular risks as well. The goal is to decrease chronic inflammation and combat free radicals, while supporting strong circulation and healthy cholesterol levels.
And the sooner you get started, the better — for all areas of health.
Chronic inflammation combined with other dangers such as excess free radicals, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol, oxidized cholesterol and high lipoprotein in the blood can be eventually deadly. Together, they cause fatty plaque deposits to build up on artery walls, reducing blood flow. Plaque formations can also break free from their original site and block circulation. This artery-clogging process — called atherosclerosis — is a primary cause of strokes and heart attacks. Smoking, eating processed foods, chronic stress and obesity increase the risks.
So one of the most important steps in stroke prevention (and overall cardiovascular health), is to control the arterial plaque that can cut off blood to the brain. Stroke prevention also requires that we strengthen circulation by improving vascular health and reducing blood viscosity (thickness). In my clinical practice, there are several targeted supplements I recommend for this, along with diet and lifestyle measures discussed below.
Diet And Lifestyle
A low-sodium, anti-inflammatory diet emphasizing vegetables, healthy fats and high-quality protein such as sprouted legumes, seeds and grains as well as free-range meats and eggs has been shown to offer significant protection against strokes and cardiovascular disease. Good hydration, targeted supplements, regular exercise, adequate sleep and healthy stress relief are equally important. Combined, these measures can keep us vibrant and healthy over the long term, adding precious time and quality to our ledger of life.
Mind-body relaxation practices such as mindful meditation may be particularly effective in improving cardiovascular health and reducing risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. In addition to the stress-relieving benefits of mindful meditation and other related practices such as yoga and tai chi, these time-honored exercises are shown in multiple studies to directly benefit cardiovascular function, reduce inflammatory markers, improve immune function and support cognitive health and emotional well-being.
Herbs And Supplements
One of the most-researched supplements — with more than 50 years of published research — is a Tibetan herbal formula containing 19 botanicals, including Icelandic moss, neem fruit and costus root. This formula has been shown in numerous published studies to control chronic inflammation, improve circulation and reduce arterial plaque. It also offers powerful antioxidant and immune support.
The enzyme nattokinase — derived from natto, a fermented soy product — has been shown to improve circulation and help to dissolve blood clots. Aged garlic can promote healthy blood lipid levels and support cardiovascular health. Ginger extracts may reduce atherosclerosis and improve cholesterol, while supporting cardiovascular health. Also important, vitamin D deficiency has been found in many stroke victims, so supplementation with this critical nutrient may also help prevent strokes by strengthening the cardiovascular system.
Another recommended supplement is modified citrus pectin, derived from the pith of citrus peels and modified for enhanced absorption and activity throughout the body. Modified citrus pectin is gaining a reputation because of its ability to block excess galectin-3, a pro-inflammatory protein in the body. At elevated levels, galectin-3 fuels chronic inflammation and fibrosis. It also is involved in the formation of arterial plaque in particular and cardiovascular disease in general.
Strong preclinical research shows that the botanical extract honokiol offers protection against a number of neurological problems, including protection against stroke damage. Honokiol is derived from the bark of the magnolia tree, a commonly used herb in traditional Asian medicine. In addition to being a powerful anti-inflammatory and cellular health agent, pure honokiol has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and offer neurological benefits as well as relaxation and relief from anxiety, without causing dependency or drowsiness.
Once a stroke has occurred, the time for effective intervention is brief and every second matters. If you notice any of these signs of a stroke, remember the FAST acronym and get to the emergency room immediately:
Face: Facial drooping on one or both sides.
Arms: Weakness or difficulty raising the arms.
Speech: Slurred or difficult to talk.
Time: Call 911 as soon as possible.
Other sudden symptoms that can also indicate a stroke include: numbness in the face, arms or legs or on one side of the body; confusion or disorientation; dizziness; vision problems; headache; and trouble walking. If possible, record the time symptoms began — this can help guide treatment. Remember, when it comes to strokes, early intervention can make a world of difference!