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Every five minutes someone suffers a stroke in the UK. A stroke can hit anyone at any age. In support of Stroke Awareness Month, read on to discover how you can reduce your risk, as well as natural approaches to improve recovery if you or a loved one suffer a stroke.
Most strokes occur when a tiny blood clot blocks one of the narrow capillaries in the brain. This causes an interruption to the blood supply to the brain cells, and they become starved of oxygen and die. This is the most common type of stroke, known as ischaemic stroke. Stroke can also be caused by bleeding in or around the brain, called haemorrhagic stroke. A type of mini-stroke, when symptoms last temporarily, is called a TIA.
Two-thirds of people who survive a stroke find themselves living with an ongoing disability.
A stroke is a medical emergency, so it pays to be aware of the warning signs:
Other symptoms of stroke include sudden weakness or numbness affecting one side of the body; blurred vision or sight loss in one or both eyes; dizziness or a fall; mental confusion or a severe headache coming on suddenly.
Lifestyle and nutritional approaches can reduce your likelihood of suffering from a stroke by up to 80% 1 and can improve recovery after a stroke.
Sensible lifestyle measures to reduce your risk include moving more, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption, but knowing why a stroke occurs can further help with prevention and recovery.
High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, so consider natural measures to control your blood pressure like managing stress and ensuring you’re getting enough magnesium and omega 3.
Taking in plenty of vitamin C may reduce the risk of stroke by a combination of mechanisms. Vitamin C prevents fats in your blood from oxidising, reduces blood pressure and inflammation, keeps the walls of blood vessel walls healthy and helps them relax. Remember vitamin C can’t be stored in your body so you need a constant supply.
Vitamin B12 has been found in studies to reduce stroke risk. Many older people have difficulties absorbing B12 because they produce less stomach acid than they used to. B12 appears to be useful for recovery from stroke, too, as it’s believed to help neurones repair themselves and assists the regeneration of the protective fatty jacket covering brain cells 2. B12 is naturally only found in animal products, like eggs, salmon, sardines and shellfish, so vegetarians and vegans should consider taking a supplement.
B12, along with other B vitamins like B6 and folate, are essential for regulating a substance called homocysteine. This is naturally produced in your body when proteins are broken down, but it should be quickly converted to another substance, as homocysteine is toxic. Because B vitamins are needed for this conversion, if they’re in short supply homocysteine can build up and damage blood vessels. Elevated homocysteine has been found to increase the risk of a stroke.
Diabetes is a risk factor for stroke, and there seems to be a link with people with prediabetes, too. This usually happens because of long-term fluctuations in blood sugar causing your body’s cells to become deaf to the message insulin is sending them, meaning blood sugar tends to remain too high. Elevated sugar in the blood can damage blood vessels, making a stroke more likely.
The community of bacteria living in your gut, known as your microbiome, can affect your risk of a stroke. Scientists have discovered the types of bacteria in stroke patients are different to those of healthy people, with less diverse species. Certain strains of bacteria produce toxic substances harming blood vessels and encouraging inflammation, and these were elevated in stroke patients. Other bacteria produce beneficial chemicals called short-chain fatty acids, reducing inflammation.
Eating plenty of dietary fibre, food for healthy bacteria, is connected with reduced risk of stroke. Natural plant foods rich in fibre encourage the types of healthy bacteria you want in your gut.
If you or a loved one are affected by stroke, it can be a frightening time. Personalised nutritional and lifestyle support can reduce your risk and help recovery after stroke. By looking at your health history, diet and lifestyle and by using functional tests, I’ll recommend natural strategies to optimise your blood vessel health. Contact Embracing Nutrition today to start your journey.
Do you need support for a stroke? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
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