A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death. Early treatment is vital, as the sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to occur.
In England, strokes are a major health problem. Every year over 150,000 people have a stroke and it is the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. The brain damage caused by strokes means that they are the largest cause of adult disability in the UK.
People who are over 65 years of age are most at risk from having strokes, although 25% of strokes occur in people who are under 65. It is also possible for children to have strokes.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. More than 140,000 people each year die from stroke and each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke.
In Canada, in 2000, stroke accounted for 7 per cent of all deaths. It is estimated that 80 per cent of Canadians have at least one of the risk factors for heart or cardio-vascular disease. Every 7 minutes a Canadian dies from stroke.
If you are south Asian, African or Caribbean, your risk of stroke is higher. This is partly because of a predisposition (a natural tendency) to developing diabetes and heart disease, which are two conditions that can cause strokes.
Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise and a poor diet are also risk factors for stroke. Also, conditions that affect the circulation of the blood, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) and diabetes, increase your risk of having a stroke.
There are two main causes of strokes:
- Ischemic (accounting for over 80% of all cases) – this is where the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot
- Hemorrhagic – this is where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts and causes brain damage
There is also a related condition known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), where the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing a ‘mini-stroke’. TIAs should be treated seriously as they are often a warning sign that a stroke is coming.
The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person but they usually begin suddenly. As different parts of your brain control different parts of your body, your symptoms will depend upon the part of your brain that has been affected and the extent of the damage.
The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.
- Face: the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have drooped
- Arms: the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness
- Speech: their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
- Time: it is time to consult professional help immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms. Call an ambulance and get to a hospital.
It is important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms. If you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure, being aware of the symptoms is even more important.
Symptoms in the FAST test identify about nine out of 10 strokes.
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- numbness or weakness resulting in complete paralysis of one side of the body
- sudden loss of vision
- communication problems, difficulty talking and understanding what others are saying
- problems with balance and coordination
- difficulty swallowing
- sudden and severe headache, unlike any the person has had before, especially if associated with neck stiffness
- blacking out (in severe cases)
The symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) are the same as for a stroke but only last from between a few minutes to a few hours, then completely disappear. However, never ignore a TIA as it is a serious warning sign that there is a problem with the blood supply to your brain.
There is about a one in 10 chance that those who have a TIA will experience a full stroke during the four weeks following the TIA. If you have had a TIA, you should contact your licensed health practitioner as soon as possible.
Stroke is a largely preventable condition. Many of the key risk factors can be reduced by making lifestyle changes.
There are some risk factors for stroke that cannot be changed, including:
- age: you are more likely to have a stroke if you are over 65 years old. However, about a quarter of strokes happen in younger people.
- family history: if a close relative (parent, grandparent, brother or sister) has had a stroke, your risk is likely to be higher
- ethnicity: if you are south Asian, African or Caribbean, your risk of stroke is higher, partly because rates of diabetes and high blood pressure are higher in these groups
- your medical history: if you have previously had a stroke, TIA or heart attack, your risk of stroke is higher
Ischemic strokes occur when blood clots block the flow of blood to the brain. Blood clots typically form in areas where the arteries have been narrowed or blocked by fatty cholesterol-containing deposits known as plaques. This narrowing of the arteries is caused by atherosclerosis.
As we get older our arteries become narrower but certain risk factors can dangerously accelerate the process. Risk factors include:
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- high cholesterol levels (often caused by a high-fat diet, but can result from inherited factors)
- a family history of heart disease or diabetes
- excessive alcohol intake (which can also make obesity and high blood pressure worse, as well as causing heart damage and an irregular heartbeat)
Diabetes is also a risk factor, particularly if it is poorly controlled, as the excess glucose in the blood can damage the arteries.
Another possible cause of ischemic stroke is an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), which can cause blood clots that become lodged in the brain. Atrial fibrillation can be caused by:
- high blood pressure
- coronary artery disease
- mitral valve disease (disease of the heart valve)
- cardiomyopathy (wasting of the heart muscle)
- pericarditis (inflammation of the bag surrounding the heart)
- hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
- excessive alcohol intake
- drinking lots of caffeine; for example, tea, coffee and energy drinks
Hemorrhagic strokes (also known as cerebral hemorrhaged or intracranial hemorrhages) usually occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds into the substance of the brain (intra-cerebral hemorrhage). In about 5% of cases, the bleeding occurs on the surface of the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage).
The main cause of hemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure (hypertension), which can weaken the arteries in the brain and make them prone to split or rupture.
The risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- being overweight
- drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- a lack of exercise
- stress, which may cause a temporary rise in blood pressure
Another important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke is treatment with medicines given to prevent blood clots, for example, warfarin.
Hemorrhagic stroke can also occur from rupture of an aneurysm (a balloon-like expansion of a blood vessel) and cerebral blood vessel malformations.
A traumatic head injury can also cause bleeding into the brain. In most cases, the cause is obvious but bleeding into the lining of the brain (subdural hematoma) can occur without any obvious signs of trauma, especially in the elderly. The symptoms and signs can then mimic stroke.
Less than 1% of strokes are caused by a blood clot (thrombosis) in the veins of the brain (the cerebral veins). Abnormalities of clotting increase the risk of this type of stroke.
Diet, along with proper nutritional supplementation, regular exercise, and conscious healthy lifestyle choices, including low stress and stress management, no smoking of any kind and little to moderate amounts of alcohol, are important self-care choices you can make to ensure you remain healthy. Unfortunately, poor diet is one of the most common health problems in the United States. To protect yourself against stroke, you need to eliminate your intake of all unhealthy fats, especially trans-fatty acids and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats and oils. This means not eating foods that contain margarine, vegetable shortening, and lard, as well as all fried and commercially processed foods, which are typically high in unhealthy fat content. Avoid all foods that are irradiated and/or that contain additives and preservatives, as well as foods grown with the use of pesticides, herbicides, steroids, and antibiotics, and all foods that contain powdered eggs or powdered milk. Eliminate all refined sugars and simple carbohydrates, which not only reduce immune function, and therefore your body’s ability to fight off infections linked to heart disease, but can also dramatically increase levels of C-reactive protein, homocysteine, blood glucose, insulin, and triglycerides, all of which are markers for heart disease. In addition, eliminate all refined salt which will dramatically reduce your overall sodium intake; instead use Himalayan mountain, Krystal sea salt or other unrefined salt, and minimize your intake of red meat, milk, and dairy products, as well as caffeine (no more than two cups of coffee per day). Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one glass of red wine per day, preferably with a meal.
Emphasize a diet rich in organic whole foods, especially plenty of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables, oats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and organic, free-range poultry and wild-caught, cold water fish, such as halibut, mackerel, orange roughy, and salmon (avoid farm raised salmon). Beans and legumes are also advisable due to their high fibre content. Also be sure to use healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, and fish oils for the essential fatty acids they contain. Choosing organic, rather than conventionally produced foods gives you a definite advantage.
Throughout the day, drink plenty of pure, filtered water, and avoid drinking—as well as bathing, and showering in—unfiltered tap water, because tap water contains heavy metals and pesticide residues that can contribute to and worsen heart disease.
Research has shown that one of the best diets is the Mediterranean diet, which is high in plant foods eaten with garlic, onions, extra virgin olive oil, and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, and poultry, along with an occasional glass of red wine at meal time. The near-vegetarian “reversal diet” developed by noted health author and researcher Dean Ornish, M.D., has also been clinically proven to help improve overall heart health. It emphasizes meals composed primarily of fresh vegetables and whole grains, and eliminates nearly all cholesterol-containing foods, animal fats, and oils. Dr. Ornish recommends that, for best results, his patients also commit to an exercise program and stress reduction techniques, such as meditation.
Especially good foods include seafood which is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, fresh vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts, and kelp. Avoid deep-fried foods and limit your intake of foods that contain plant sources of oestrogens, such as soybeans and peanuts, as well as alcoholic beverages.
- Do not consume any artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, NutraSweet or Aspartame
- Do not consume high fructose corn syrup or mono-sodium glutamate.
- Do not drink any carbonated beverages.
- Avoid all fast food restaurants.
- Avoid all canned food.
- Eliminate conventional dairy products. The best dairy products are raw, unpasteurised and homogenised dairy from grass fed cows. If this is unavailable, then buy organic dairy.
- Avoid conventional beef. The best beef is organic grass fed beef. www.grasslandbeef.com/StoreFront.bok?affld=104400 The second best is organic meat; this includes beef, veal, lamb, chicken and turkey.
- Reduce salt intake
- Take Vitamin D3 50,000-100,000 International Units a day http:/// for a period of up to 4 weeks. Vitamin D has been shown to be a key factor in maintaining health cholesterol levels in the blood as high cholesterol can be the result of inadequate exposure to the sun.
- Beta Carotene – Research done at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland found it could lower heart disease by up to 50 per cent.
- Niacin – Vitamin B3 – known to lower cholesterol levels
- Vitamin B6 – helpful in preventing strokes and heart attacks, prevents oxidization of cholesterol
- VitaminB12 – associated with lowering homocysteine (a non-protein amino acid) levels. Homocysteine is one of the major contributing factors in heart disease.
- Folic Acid – essential for proper metabolism of homocysteine
- Vitamin C – prevents formation of oxysterols
- Coenzyme 10 – strengthens heart muscles
- Proanthocyanidin (PCA) – antioxidant derived from pine bark (or grape seeds) which enhances heart health
- Wholefood supplements are the best way of ensuring your nutritional needs are met. The best we know on the market is Kevin Trudeau’s “KT Daily” product. You can find more details herekevintrudeaudailylifesessentials.com/
- Omega 3s:
- Intravenous Chelation
- Calcium and Magnesium
- Vitamin E (Unique E) www.acgrace.com
- Able Heal
- Deer Antler Velvet www.royalvelvetforlife.com
The importance of specific nutrients to overall heart health has been clearly established scientifically for at least fifty years, due to the work of such pioneering researchers as two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, Ph.D., whose work showed that heart disease is primarily due to nutritional deficiencies. Dr. Pauling maintained that heart disease was one of the most preventable of all diseases, despite the enormous personal and financial toll is takes each year. His own personal nutritional heart disease protective remedy was as follows: 6 to 18 mg of vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, divided into three daily dosages and taken just before or with meals, along with 3 to 6 grams of the amino acid lysine, taken once per day. To this remedy, Matthias Rath, MD, one of Dr. Pauling’s associates, suggests adding the amino acid proline once per day at a dose of between 0.5 to 2 grams.
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is also beneficial.
Other important nutrients for preventing and helping to reverse heart disease include:
beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 50 percent (for best results, supplement with a mixed carotenoid formula for more comprehensive antioxidant protection);
vitamin B3 (niacin), which lowers cholesterol, reduces overall heart disease risk, and helps to increase the longevity of people who have already suffered a heart attack;
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which helps to neutralize homocysteine and inhibit platelet stickiness, thus protecting against arteriosclerosis;
vitamin B12, which also helps to protect against homocysteine;
vitamin C, which protects against cholesterol oxidation, infection, and inflammation, all major risk factors for heart disease, and can also help to dissolve unhealthy blood clots. Citrus fruits, which contain Vitamin C are beneficial in cutting stroke risk.
vitamin E, which can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and also protects against abnormal blood clotting and cholesterol oxidation, as well as helping to repair the cellular lining of blood vessels and to inhibit platelet stickiness (Caution: High dosages of vitamin E are not recommended for people with high blood pressure, rheumatic heart disease, or ischemic heart disease except under close medical supervision);
folic acid, which is vital for reducing and properly metabolizing homocysteine;
coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an important nutrient for maintaining heart strength, providing energy for the overall cardiovascular system, and for inhibiting oxidation of cholesterol due to its potent antioxidant properties;
proanthocyanidan (PCA), which is contained in pycnogenol and grape seed extract, and which helps to prevent cholesterol oxidation while protecting the inner walls of the arteries and inhibiting platelet stickiness and abnormal blood clotting;
calcium, which helps to reduce platelet stickiness and reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels; chromium, which helps to reduce triglyceride and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, while increasing HDL (“good) cholesterol;
magnesium (for best results, use in the form of magnesium malate, glycinate, taurate, or aspartate), which helps to keep arteries smooth and properly dilated, improve blood flow and the ability of the heart to pump blood, protect against arrhythmia, inhibit arterial calcification, inhibit platelet stickiness, and maintain healthy overall cholesterol levels;
potassium, which protects against high blood pressure much more safely and effectively than blood pressure medications;
selenium, another potent antioxidant that helps to reduce platelet stickiness.
Zinc – research has shown stroke victims recover quickly by taking zinc
In addition to lysine and proline, certain other amino acids can also be helpful for protecting against heart disease. This is especially true of L-arginine and L-carnitine. L-arginine helps to protect against high blood pressure, and has been scientifically shown to improve overall heart function in patients with congestive heart disease. If administered immediately after a heart attack, it can also help repair damaged heart muscle. In addition, L-arginine helps the body to produce nitric acid, which helps to maintain the smoothness and integrity of the blood vessels.
Besides helping to lower triglyceride levels, L-carnitine also enhances the heart’s ability to properly contract and pump blood, as well as significantly reducing the risk of angina and arrhythmia, and improve recovery from heart attack.
Other useful nutrients include fish and omega-3 oils, which protect against chronic inflammation, act as natural blood thinners, and help to reduce harmful cholesterol and triglyceride levels; gamma linoleic acid, which also helps to protect against chronic inflammation and elevated C-reactive protein levels; policosanol, which reduces LDL cholesterol and lipoprotein(a) and protects and improves recovery from angina; and SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine) and trimethylglycine (TMG), both of which are very effective in reducing homecysteine.
Prescription and non-prescription medication:
What non-prescription and prescription drugs are you taking? Your non-prescription and prescription are partially the reason that you have this illness or disease – you need to get off these medications but do so only under the guidance of a licensed health care practitioner.
We know that when the body is out of balance, energy doesn’t flow, leading blockages and eventually disease. Here are some things you can do to combat stress and restore balance:
- Go to a Dr Morter BEST (Bio-Energetic Synchronisation Technique) Practitioner.
- Sign up for Energetic Re-Balancing: 2 practitioners to consider are:
- Stephen Lewis, founder of the Aim Program. Find out more by clicking here.
- . Find out more by clicking here.
- Consider using Mary Millers Iching System Products – ichingsystemsinstruments.com
- Reiki healing is very powerful in releasing stress and emotional baggage. Find a practitioner here.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has had remarkable results in dissolving stress. Find a local practitioner here or go to www.thetappingsolution.com or www.tftrx.com
- Try Hypnotherapy to relax the mind. Find a practitioner here.
Stress Management: Learning how to reduce and properly manage stress is essential for helping to protect against stroke and heart disease, especially for anyone who is suffering from high blood pressure. Research conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish and others has found that stress reduction not only helps prevent heart disease, but can also help to reverse it, especially when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular program of exercise.
Stress reduction techniques are also very helpful for dealing with emotions such as anger, depression, and hopelessness. Such emotions, if not properly expressed and dealt with, can significantly increase the risk of heart disease if they become chronic. Research has shown, for example, that people who are habitually angry and prone to lose their temper have nearly twice as high a risk of developing heart disease, compared to people who don’t have anger issues. In addition, homocysteine levels are often twice as high in people who are habitually angry, compared to normal people. Similar increases in heart disease risk have also been found in people who are habitually depressed and/or beset with feelings of hopelessness, especially men and the elderly.
Holistic health practitioners help their patients accomplish stress reduction through the use of various mind/body medicine techniques, such as biofeedback, hypnotherapy, and relaxation exercises. Meditation is another form of stress management that can be highly effective in reducing high blood pressure levels, thereby protecting overall cardiovascular health. So much so, in fact, that since 1984 it has been recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over conventional blood pressure medications for cases of mild high blood pressure. There are many ways to meditate. One of the easiest is simply to sit comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed as you focus on your breathing. Do this for five to ten minutes twice a day and gradually extend each session to 20 or 30 minutes. To enhance your efforts, concentrate on mentally repeating a peaceful phrase each time you inhale and exhale, allowing all other thoughts to arise and pass without becoming involved in them. At first, this may seem difficult, but with committed practice you will eventually find yourself able to do so while experiencing greater degrees of calm and peace.
Diet soda and links to stroke: www.examiner.com/article/university-of-miami-researchers-expose-diet-soda-stroke-hazard
Yoga helps stroke victims recover: yogauonline.com/yogatherapy/yoga-for-heart-disease/736060112-new-study-yoga-therapy-helps-stroke-victims-recover-mor
Reflexology and stroke (a heart-warming story): wendycoad.hubpages.com/hub/Reflexology-and-Stroke-A-Students-Story-about-her-Beloved-Dad
Stroke recovery quickened by zinc: www.empowher.com/stroke/content/stroke-recovery-may-be-quickened-zinc-supplementation
Alternative therapies for stroke: http://www.everydayhealth.com/stroke/alternative-therapies-for-stroke-treatment.aspx
Paralysis treatment in Ayurveda: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0s_K7s8Pbo
Yoga may benefit stroke victims: www.jonbarron.org/natural-health/yoga-exercise-benefits-stroke-victim
Potassium cuts risk of stroke: www.bmj.com/content/323/7311/497.extract
Cut out salt to reduce stroke risks: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782060/
Eating tomatoes may lower the risk of stroke: www.examiner.com/article/eating-tomatoes-may-lower-the-risk-of-stroke
Further Information (links and books)
Strokes: A home treatment that can cure paralysis and stroke damage by Sam Biser; Eating for a Healthy Heart by Robert Povey;The John Hopkins Complete Guide for Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease, Peter Kwiterovich; Preventing Silent Heart Disease, Harold L. Karpman; Bypassing Bypass, Elmer Cranton; Dr Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Dean Ornish
Andrea Butje | Aromahead [email protected] – aromatherapy
Carrie Vitt [email protected] – organic food recipes.
David Spector-NSR/USA [email protected] – meditation, stress
judith hoad [email protected] – herbalist.
Kath May [email protected] – reiki, tai chi.
Lillian Bridges [email protected] – Chinese medicine, living naturally.
Monika [email protected] – aromatherapy.
Rakesh [email protected] – Ayurvedic Practitioner.