Dear Dr. Susan,
My mother had her first stroke when she was in her early 60s. For three years afterwards, she took prescription blood thinners, but still died from a massive stroke. I'm 50 and would like to protect myself, but I'd prefer a more natural route than my mom took. Do you have any suggestions? —Patti
I'm sorry to hear about your mother, and I think she'd agree that you're being very wise to take a proactive approach to stroke prevention. A well-designed program can do a wonderful job of lowering your risk of stroke.
And, your protection will increase over time because you won't be just thinning your blood—you'll be dismantling your risk factors.
Strokes come in two varieties. (You can also watch more explanation on stroke on my YouTube channel, here, where Dr. Malou and I do a teaching on this.)
Also emotional issues could contribute to bad health. Read this on how you can improve your overall health and even prevent a stroke through emotional management.
The more common type—ischemic—occurs when a clot or piece of plaque breaks loose from your artery walls and lodges in a blood vessel in your brain, cutting off the blood supply to that section of brain tissue.
A hemorrhagic stroke, which happens about 12 percent of the time, occurs when a blood vessel leaks blood into your brain.
While the symptoms of both types are virtually the same, their conventional treatments are different. Ischemic strokes are treated with blood thinners that melt the clot.
But with a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood thinner can accelerate the bleeding, increasing the risk of death.
Considering how quickly emergency room doctors have to think and react when a patient has suffered a stroke, making the right treatment choice is a very serious responsibility. Fortunately, preventing this situation from happening in the first place is not as difficult as it may seem. I recommend that you follow my "ABCD" plan, which supports your body's natural ability to prevent strokes.
If you always check your blood pressure on the same arm, your risk of stroke could be higher than you realize.
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke, and if one arm reads differently than the other, and you've been checking only the arm with the lower reading, you've been getting false assurances.
Check both arms, and if you find that your blood pressure is high in one arm, then you need to lower your blood pressure.
An inter-arm difference of five or more points for either the systolic or diastolic number is a marker for narrowed, stroke-prone arteries (Family Practice).
A great way to combat that is to take the enzyme nattokinase, which helps dissolve clots and pre-vent new ones from forming. Choose a nattokinase that has no vitamin K (which promotes blood clotting) and provides 2,000 fibrin units (FU) per 100 mg. Nattokinase is available at most health food stores.
One brand I like is Pure Prescriptions' Max Strength Nattokinase (www. pureprescriptions.com). Take one capsule twice a day.
If your blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine are high, your risk of stroke increases.
On the other hand, if your blood levels of vitamins B6, B12, and B9 (folic acid) are increased through proper supplementation, your homocysteine levels (and your stroke risk) decrease.
Even folic acid supplementation alone reduces your stroke risk by 18 percent (Lancet), and your homocysteine can drop even further if you take B12 and B6 in addition to folic acid (September 200Z Lancet).
For stroke prevention, I recommend up to 2 mg of folic acid, 25 mg of B6, and 400 mcg of B12 daily.
Another important "B" is betaine, a metabolite present in spinach, wheat bran, and seafood. Betaine immediately lowers plasma homocysteine, reduces arterial plaque, and helps your body absorb more vitamin B12.
Take 1 to 2 grams of betaine hydrochloride three times daily with meals, unless you react adversely to additional acid because of pre-existing over-acidity. I like Source Naturals' Betaine HC1 with Pepsin.
Catechins are a type of flavonoid. Regular intake of flavonoids—catechins, in particular—interferes with several of the steps leading to arterial plaque and clot formation.
It also keeps arteries relaxed and open. One wonderful food source of catechins is apples. In a study of 9,208 subjects over 28 years, eating two apples per day decreased the risk of ischemic stroke by 40 percent!
This amazing statistic is partly due to catechins, as well as quercetin (one of the most powerful food-sourced anti-oxidant flavonoids known to man), and probably many other apple benefits yet to be discovered (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition). I suggest that you enjoy two scrumptious, juicy, organic apples every day.
Another good source of catechins is green tea.
In an 11-year study of more than 40,000 Japanese adults, women who drank at least five cups of green tea per day had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke in general, and a 62 percent lower risk for ischemic stroke! (Journal of the American Medical Association). I recommend that you drink at least two cups of organic green tea a day.
In addition to taking a top-quality multi-nutrient every day, I recommend that you follow the Mediterranean diet, which is a proven stroke preventer. This diet is not only low in cholesterol and animal fat, but very high in omega 3–rich oils, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables of all colors.
In addition, eat oily fish such as salmon or mackerel at least twice a week, and also supplement with a high-quality fish oil capsule (a natural blood thinner) daily. In just four years, the Mediterranean diet can lower your risk of stroke by 60 percent! ( Stroke).
Thanks for your question, Patti, and good luck!
I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful New Year full of countless blessings!
PS: Look out for my new eating program and cookbook with recipes for a more low acid diet in major e-retailers.
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