Stroke Prevention and Recovery

Stroke Prevention and Recovery

Affecting around 150,000 people in the UK each year and causing around 53,000 deaths, stroke is the third most common cause of death in England and Wales. The good news is that most of the risk factors can be modified with simple changes in dietary and lifestyle habits.

Five steps to reducing your stroke risk

  • Lower high blood pressure: this is linked with three quarters of strokes. Diet, supplements and even laughter are all effective in reducing blood pressure
  • Improve your cholesterol: if you want to reduce your stroke risk then it's best to work on lowering your LDL-cholesterol and increasing your HDL cholesterol. The B vitamin niacin, for example, in doses of 1,000mg a day, effectively raises HDL and lowers LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Reverse diabetes: people with type-2 diabetes have almost double the risk of having a stroke within the first five years of diagnosis. The process of atherosclerosis causes many of the chronic complications of diabetes so it's vital that you take steps to prevent this.
  • Go fish: strokes can be regarded as an inflammatory disease and risk has been strongly associated with both whole fish and fish oil intake. Not only do omega-3 fats decrease inflammation and regulate the amount of fatty triglycerides in your blood, they also decrease blood clotting and stickiness – 'thinning' the blood and improving blood pressure. Oily fish are a great source of omega-3 oils. I'd recommend you eat at least 1-2 servings each week.
  • Handle homocysteine: as far as strokes are concerned, lowering homocysteine by taking a combination of vitamin B6, folic acid, B12, TMG and zinc makes a big difference. If taken for three years, folic acid alone can lower stroke risk by almost a third, according to a recent analysis of all trials published in the Lancet. I'd certainly recommend you test your homocysteine level

Essential supplements to improve recovery

Phospholipids: these are a type of fat which play a key part in cell membrane structure and are known to have protective effects in the brain – particularly in ischaemic stroke. One way to incease your choline and phospholipids is by eating foods like wheatgerm, beef liver, egg yolks, cauliflower, and using unrefined vegetable oils like safflower, corn and soybean oil. Alternatively you can take a lecithin supplement which provides you with phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylinositol and essential fats such as linoleic acid. Higher nature sell a high-PC lecithin, one teaspoon provides 1,000mg of phosphatidyl choline.

Antioxidants: in the case of a stroke it seems that the body is under great oxidative stress producing larger amounts of oxidants. After suffering an ischaemic stroke there are significantly lower levels of anti-oxidants and antioxidant activity in the blood. Antioxidants may help stroke victims recover faster due to their anti-inflammatory properties and their ability to quench oxidants. They may also help protect you from suffering another stroke, I recommend taking a daily antioxidant supplement. Choose one that contains ALA, glutathione, vitamin E, the potent plant antioxidant resveratrol and CoQ10. Take with vitamin C for additional support.

Fish and fish oils: these contain the omega-3 oils EPA and DHA – integral for brain development and repair and by lowering triglycerides, blood pressure and arrhythmias they are also vital for a healthy heart. EPA and DHA also help to reduce depression which is very common after a stroke. Evidence shows that those with depression appear to recover less well after a stroke compared to those without.

Cholesterol: this helps by transporting the essential fats – needed to create nerve pathways and repair or replace damaged cells. What's more, having a too low cholesterol level can actually result in muscle and nerve degeneration. So bear this in mind, especially if you've been prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug as part of your stroke rehabilitation programme.

Recovering after a stroke

Strokes affect everyone differently and the level of recovery cannot be predicted. Much recovery occurs within the first few weeks while a person is still in hospital, but improvements may occur over a number of years.

If a person is having difficulty swallowing, making supplements a challenge, an alternative would be a nutrient-rich shake such as Get Up and Go, with added hi-PC lecithin and ground chia seeds, plus piercing a capsule of omega-3 fish oils. Vitamin capsules or tablets can be crushed and added to food.