STROKE – How Nutrition and Supplements Aid in Prevention and Recovery

Before we dive into how nutrition and supplements aid in stroke prevention and recovery, let us first look into why a stroke happens in the first place. 

There are two main causes of stroke:

  • 1.  A blood clot forms and clogs an artery of the brain causing a blockage (ischemic stroke). Once a blockage occurs, it reduces the needed blood supply to the brain. The oxygen-rich blood cannot get to parts of the brain leading to brain tissue damage or brain cell death. A blockage occurs because of a number of different reasons usually due to plaque (fatty deposit) buildup in the arteries due to faulty lifestyle habits causing narrowing or blockage of arteries, or when plaque breaks off from an artery and travels to the brain and causes the blockage of an artery in the brain.
  • 2. The leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke)

About 90% of strokes are due to blood clots blocking the arteries.

A stroke is a leading cause of death and a major cause of functional impairment in people around the world. A major stroke is viewed by more than half of those at risk as being worse than dying

Dietary and lifestyle habits are much more important than most health care providers understand. Prevention of this disease should start early by adopting healthier lifestyle choices. A study of the US Health Professionals and the Nurses’ Health Study showed that poor lifestyle choices accounted for over 50% of cases of stroke.

On the other hand, healthy lifestyle choices were shown to reduce the risk of a stroke by 80%. The healthy lifestyle choices in the study included:

1. not smoking

2. zero to moderate intake of alcohol

3. a body mass index?of under 25

4. daily exercise for 30?min 

5. a healthy diet score

Unfortunately, of these lifestyle choices, the study showed that in developed countries, the most prevalent risk factor was an unhealthy diet. In 2015, the American Heart Association’s report showed that only 0.1% of Americans were consuming a healthy diet, and 8.3% were consuming a slightly healthy diet.

Dietary habits are key to the prevention and the recovery from stroke. 

The faster the right dietary habits can be implemented and become part of one’s lifestyle, the healthier and more resistant to stroke the brain will become.

There are three keys to reducing the risk of a stroke where dietary habits are key:

  1. Control of blood pressure
  2. Prevention of Blood Clots
  3. Reversing Endothelial Cell Dysfunction

Nutrition 

Nutrition plays a crucial part in all three of these keys. 

Regular consumption of a diet high in sodium, energy dense foods, animal fats, refined carbohydrates, added sugars and a diet low in fruits and vegetables contributes to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, blood clots and endothelial cell dysfunction. 

It is suggested to avoid the consumption of more than one egg per week, to limit animal product consumption to no more than once, maximum twice a week, to avoid fried foods, and refined sugars and avoid refined carbohydrate rich foods.

On the other hand, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables which are naturally rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber are crucial for supporting all three of these stroke prevention and recovery keys. Also consuming only grains that are whole instead of refined grains supports all three of these stroke prevention and recovery keys. Foods rich in the B-vitamins are also crucial especially in the prevention of blood clots and preventing endothelial cell dysfunction. Foods rich in the minerals potassium, calcium, and magnesium help control blood pressure.

A diet low in salt helps reduce blood pressure.

A diet low in saturated fat helps reduce blood clot risk and prevents endothelial cell dysfunction.

Here are a few dietary tips to ensure you get sufficient levels of these nutrients:

  • Bananas, oranges, potatoes, sweet potatoes and leafy green vegetables are rich in potassium
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes are rich in magnesium and calcium
  • Saturated fats are highest in dairy products and meat. These should be consumed sparingly as part of a lifestyle change. 
  • Just a handful a day of almonds will give your body 9 grams of monounsaturated fat that will cut down the “bad” cholesterol while increasing the “good” cholesterol. They are also rich in Vitamin E that prevents the clogging of the arteries and plaque buildup.
  • Oatmeal lowers your cholesterol level and helps prevent high blood pressure.
  • Foods richest in fiber that help reduce all three keys to preventing and recovering from stroke include raw fruits, raw vegetables, raw seeds, raw nuts, raw oats and cooked whole grains.
  • Healthy foods rich in most B vitamins include dark green vegetables, beets, avocados, potatoes, whole grains, beans of all types, nuts and seeds, bananas, citrus fruits and yeast.
  • Consume whole grains whether gluten free or not. Avoid white rice, white pasta and white breads. Consume whole grain versions instead.

Supplements 

Regular consumption of specific nutritional supplements have also been shown to aid in the prevention and recovery from a stroke. 

Vitamin D is one of the best vitamins for stroke recovery. Please read my guide on vitamin D to ensure you get enough of this crucial nutrient. 

Probiotics are the good bacteria that play a crucial part in your overall gut health, which in turn aid in your brain health and helps prevent blood clots that lead to strokes. Great sources for probiotics are kimchi, miso, and tempeh. Furthermore, toxic metabolic byproducts produced from the intestinal microbiome, especially following carnitine ingestion found in red meat and phosphatidylcholine consumption found in egg yolks have been shown cause atherosclerosis and increase stroke and heart disease risk. They are mainly excreted by the kidneys, so people with renal failure may have very high plasma levels of some of these metabolites. See my article on TMAO to learn more about this subject and how to further reduce risk for stroke.

Vitamin B12 can aid in stroke recovery, whereas a deficiency of this vitamin can cause inflammation that damages blood vessels. Such damage can inhibit blood flow, which can lead to a stroke. You can find vitamin B12 in fermented brown rice, unwashed Shiitake mushrooms, fermented soy products, and natural coconut milk. Please see my article on Homocysteine levels to help you understand the nutrients that prevent homocysteine build up and thus reduce the risk for stroke.

Vitamin B3 or niacin has been shown to lower “bad” LDL Cholesterol while increasing the “good” HDL Cholesterol and lowering triglycerides in the body. Vitamin B3 also directly affects neuroplasticity, which is a primary driver for recovering from a stroke. Vitamin B3 can be found in peanuts, avocado, whole wheat products, mushrooms, peas, potatoes and brown rice.

Healthy dietary information is readily available to everyone on my blog and YouTube channel, the hard part is implementing the lifestyle changes especially the nutritional changes needed to support health. However, implementing a health promoting diet will help you live a long and healthy life which can give us much satisfaction and enjoyment. Changing dietary habits, although difficult at first, is definitely worth it in the long run.

References: 

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