Meta-analysis confirms vegetable/fruit benefit in stroke prevention
In case anyone needs yet another compelling reason to eat more fruits and vegetables, the results of a meta-analysis published in the January 28, 2006 issue of The Lancet showed that consuming more than five servings per day reduces stroke risk by 26 percent. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the majority of developed countries, and the leading cause of disability.
The analysis found that eating three to five servings fruit and vegetables per day reduced the risk of stroke by 11 percent compared to individuals who consumed fewer than 3 servings. Subjects whose intake was greater than five servings per day experienced a relative reduction of 26%.
The authors could not say whether some specific types of vegetables and fruits are better than others, but note that an overall increase in their consumption should be of benefit for stroke protection. Increased intake of potassium, folate, fiber and/or antioxidants could explain the benefits of vegetables and fruits revealed in this meta-analysis. They conclude, "The average fruit and vegetable intake in most developed countries is about three servings per day, and current recommendations encourage five or more servings per day. Our results provide strong support for these recommendations. If these goals were achieved, stroke morbidity and mortality would be greatly reduced. Such diet modifications would also reduce other cardiovascular disease and some cancers."
In the 1960s hypertension was identified as a treatable risk factor for stroke, and the decline in the incidence of and mortality from a stroke began when doctors began implementing aggressive anti-hypertensive therapies. In the 1970s aspirin was first demonstrated effective in preventing strokes, though few doctors prescribe aspirin even to this day to reduce the risk of ischemic stroke. Cigarette smoking has been proven conclusively as a major risk factor for stroke, and smoking cessation produces a significant risk reduction within 2 years.
Researchers now believe there are an immense number of mechanisms at work causing brain cell damage and death following a stroke. Each of these mechanisms represents a potential route for intervention, as well as prevention. Given the multidimensional nature of ischemic brain cell injury, stroke experts predict that no single drug will be able to completely protect the brain during a stroke. More likely, a combination of agents will be necessary for full recovery potential.
Most strokes culminate in a core area of cell death (infarction) in which blood flow is so drastically reduced that the cells usually cannot recover. This threshold seems to occur when cerebral blood flow is 20% of normal or less. Brain cells ultimately die as a result of the actions of calcium-activated proteases (enzymes which digest cell proteins), lipases (enzymes which digest cell membranes), and free radicals formed as a result of the ischemic cascade.
If you know an ischemic stroke is occurring, large quantities of antioxidant vitamins and herbs such as ginkgo biloba would be of benefit. Magnesium in an oral dose of 1500 mg is a safe nutrient to relieve an arterial spasm, a common problem in thrombotic strokes. If you take high-potency antioxidant nutrients at least 3 times a day, your chances of fully recovering from an ischemic stroke may be significantly improved.
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