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Natural Approach to Stroke Prevention

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Updated September 25, 2012

What Is a Stroke?

The third leading cause of death in the United States, a stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is suddenly cut off (known as ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in your brain bursts (known as hemorrhagic stroke).

As a result of ischemic stroke, brain cells and tissue are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, which causes them to die within several minutes. In hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding causes the brain to swell and press against the skull.

Symptoms of Stroke

Symptoms of stroke include:

  • sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis (especially on one side of the body)
  • trouble with walking (including loss of balance or coordination)
  • difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • sudden blurred or double vision
  • severe headache accompanied by a stiff neck, vomiting, or facial pain
  • Who's at Risk for Stroke?

    Risk factors for stroke include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • cardiovascular disease
  • family history of cardiovascular disease
  • being age 55 or older
  • cigarette smoking
  • Treatment

    In order for stroke to be successfully treated - and for doctors to minimize the potential for severe damage or disability - it's critical to seek immediate medical attention upon experiencing stroke symptoms.

    Treatment of ischemic stroke involves addressing the blood clot causing the problem, while treatment of hemorrhagic stroke involves stopping the bleeding.

    Natural Ways to Prevent Stroke

    Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing your stress (with relaxing practices such as yoga or meditation, for instance), keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, and maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risk of stroke.

    These natural substances also show promise as a means of stroke prevention:

    1) Tea

    For a report published in 2009, researchers reviewed nine studies (including a total of nearly 195,000 people) and found that drinking three cups of black or green tea per day reduced stroke risk by 21 percent. Sipping six or more cups daily may decrease stroke risk by an additional 21 percent, according to the review's findings.

    2) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    In a 2003 study, scientists discovered that eating fish several times per week reduces risk of thrombotic stroke (a type of ischemic stroke that occurs when a blood clot forms in arteries in the neck or brain). An earlier study also found that high consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids may be linked to decreased risk of thrombotic stroke.

    Abundant in oily fish like salmon and sardines, omega-3 fatty acids are also available in supplement form.

    3) Garlic

    Although garlic hasn't been specifically studied for its effects on stroke risk, research suggests that the herb may help prevent blood clotting and buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, as well as curb high blood pressure.

    Sources:

    Arab L, Liu W, Elashoff D. "Green and black tea consumption and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis." Stroke. 2009 40(5):1786-92.

    Berthold HK, Sudhop T. "Garlic preparations for prevention of atherosclerosis." Curr Opin Lipidol. 1998 9(6):565-9.

    Iso H, Rexrode KM, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Colditz GA, Speizer FE, Hennekens CH, Willett WC. "Intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of stroke in women." JAMA 2001 17;285(3):304-12.

    Kiesewetter H, Jung F, Pindur G, Jung EM, Mrowietz C, Wenzel E. "Effect of garlic on thrombocyte aggregation, microcirculation, and other risk factors." Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1991 29(4):151-5.

    Reinhart KM, Coleman CI, Teevan C, Vachhani P, White CM. "Effects of garlic on blood pressure in patients with and without systolic hypertension: a meta-analysis." Ann Pharmacother. 2008 42(12):1766-71.

    Skerrett PJ, Hennekens CH. "Consumption of fish and fish oils and decreased risk of stroke." Prev Cardiol. 2003 6(1):38-41.

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