A 77-year-old woman was cooking in the kitchen when she collapsed onto the floor. Her daughter called an ambulance and the woman was taken to the emergency room. She had suffered a stroke, and slowly regained consciousness over the next two days.
However, when she woke up, she had the following signs and symptoms:
– paralysis of the right face and arm
– loss of sensation to touch on the skin of the right face and arm
– inability to understand what was said to her
– inability to speak
Approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke every year in the United States alone—it is the third leading cause of death, and the number one cause of serious, long-term disability.
Strokes occur without any warning, and often lead to severe and irreparable brain damage. Because damage occurs so quickly, it’s imperative to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Symptoms of stroke damage vary widely, but common afflictions include paralysis on one side of the body (depending on which side of the brain the stroke occurred), vision problems, speech pathologies, memory loss, and behavioral abnormalities.
Some stroke victims are able to return to normal functioning through protracted rehabilitation, but others aren’t so lucky. Researchers are attempting to develop measures for regenerating brain cells after a stroke has occurred—such as the curcumin-derived compound CNB-001—but we’re still a long way off from this option being available to everyone.
Luckily, strokes are entirely preventable.
Despite the tragic commonality of strokes, up to 80% of them can be prevented with the right lifestyle practices. Let’s take a look at three of the most important ways to ward off this potentially debilitating and life-threatening event.
Prevention through Lifestyle: Diet, Exercise, and Supplementation
Unsurprisingly, controlling the risk factors that can lead to stroke begins with an examination of your basic lifestyle habits. Because the most common type of stroke (ischemic stroke) occurs because of clogged brain arteries, it’s important to minimize foods, practices, and deficiencies that have been shown to contribute to arterial plaque buildup. Here’s some of the biggest offenders to avoid.
1. Trans fats. Amidst all the debate about “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” fats, everyone agrees that trans fats carry serious health risks. They are linked with systemic inflammation, as well as many biomarkers that signal the development of cardiovascular disease.
After some New York counties banned the sale of trans fats, incidence of heart attack and stroke had already declined significantly after only three years. In order to act on these findings, and hopefully save hundreds of thousands of lives in the process, the FDA is instituting a national ban on the sale of partially hydrogenated oils on June 18, 2018.
2. Red meat, smoked meats, and processed meats. While some evidence suggests that any meat consumption has its downsides, the real problems lie with low-quality, processed, conventionally raised meat products.
A meta-analysis of research on the subject has demonstrated that red meat consumption increases the risk of ischemic stroke, but it’s possible that these studies did not differentiate between organic, grass-fed meat and toxic, conventionally raised meat.
No one debates, though, that smoked and processed meats are hazards to your health. One study directly linked the consumption of processed meats to stroke, and others have clearly outlined a plethora of other health risks.
3. Sedentary lifestyle. Research has demonstrated time and time again that maintaining an active lifestyle affects your stroke risk tremendously. In fact, one study showed that a moderate, hour-long walk five days a week (or exercise of similar intensity) can decrease the risk of stroke by half. Even 30 minutes a day, five days a week decreases the risk by 24%. Our fast-paced modern lives make it difficult to find time for exercise, but what’s more important than protecting ourselves from heart attacks and strokes?
4.Vitamin D deficiency. If this risk factor comes as a surprise to you, know this: vitamin D deficiency is a health issue of enormous magnitude, and one which underlies nearly all of our most prevalent diseases. According to research conducted at the John Hopkins Medical Institution, low levels of vitamin D doubles the risk of stroke in Caucasians.
To remedy the issue before it turns into serious health issues, be sure to have your vitamin D levels tested. If you’re deficient, begin by spending at least twenty minutes out in the sun every day (without sunscreen).
Complement this practice by beginning a daily vitamin D supplementation regimen, especially if you live farther north than Atlanta, Georgia (above this latitude, it’s difficult for your skin to synthesize vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays). Ideally, always supplement with a highly absorbable liposomal vitamin D that is formulated with vitamin K2.
Learn to recognize the signs of a stroke
Prevention is always the best treatment, but you should still learn how to respond to a stroke if and when one occurs. This is the only way that you’ll be able to seek treatment and minimize the damage in yourself or a loved one.
The onset of a stroke is most often marked by the following symptoms: difficulty walking, dizziness, lack of balance or coordination, confusion, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, difficulty seeing, and severe headache.
If you observe any of these signs in yourself or a loved one (especially when multiple symptoms occur at once), seek emergency medical attention immediately. Conventional stroke medications are actually remarkably effective at dissolving cerebral blood clots and preventing further brain cell damage—but only if they are administered within one hour.