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 Easy Ways to Prevent Stroke 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Women's Nutrition Detective by . View all columns in series

Dr. Yokoyama, a research associate in epidemiology at the Medical Research Institute of Tokyo Medical and Dental University, helped evaluate the amount of vitamin C in the diets of over 1,000 women. Women who ate vegetables six to seven days a week had a 58 percent less risk for stroke than women who ate them twice a week.

Most fresh fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, but it’s a fragile vitamin, losing its potency when exposed to light, air, and heat. Cutting, processing, and bruising also reduces its levels in foods. If you drink a lot of water, you could also be depleting your body of vitamin C. Stress, smoking, and even smelling petroleum fumes can reduce absorption of this important vitamin.

Add to this the fact that your body doesn’t store vitamin C, but needs some every day, and you’ll see why it is so important to include fruits, vegetables, and possibly an additional supplement to reduce your risk for stroke. It may be the vitamin C, itself, that is protective, or other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables could have a protective effect. So eat your veggies daily, and consider taking an extra 500 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C as well.

Too much iron can increase the production of free radicals in your brain cells and the tiny blood vessels in your brain, according to neurologist Antoni Davalos, MD, who headed a study published in Neurology (April 25, 2000). If your iron levels are too high, your brain cells can release a brain neurotransmitter called glutamate that can trigger chemical reactions causing brain-cell death.

To see if your glutamate levels are high, have your ferritin (iron) level checked. Ferritin, a protein in the blood that contains iron, indicates how much iron is stored in bone marrow. Sixty percent of people with high ferritin levels were found to have high glutamate levels, said Dr. Davalos. He believes that if your ferritin level is higher than 275 ng/mL, you should lower your iron intake in food and supplements.

Stored iron normally increases as we age, but in a few people, it is very high. The next time you havea blood test, ask that your ferritin level be tested. It’s a simple and inexpensive aspect of stroke protection.

B vitamins can help lower homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is normally generated when we digest protein. High levels of homocysteine can lead to a stroke. Homocysteine also increases your body’s production of plaque in the arteries. Plaque narrows the arteries and makes it more difficult for blood to flow to the brain. Enough of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid can keep your homocysteine level low and your arteries open.

David Perlmutter, MD, who heads The Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida, says that homocysteine levels should be from eight to 14 micromoles per liter, and ideally less than 10 micromoles per liter. In his book, he cites a study that found 10 mg of vitamin B 6 , 400 mcg of vitamin B 12 , and 650 mcg of folic acid are enough to reduce homocysteine by 50 percent. Dr. Perlmutter gives nutritional advice for stroke recovery in this book. Other natural therapies can be found in Heart Disease, Stroke, & High Blood Pressure, by Burton Goldberg.

A life-changing event
A stroke is not necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime event. Many people have additional strokes after their initial episode. If you’ve had a stroke, it’s vital to prevent another. Taking medication like blood thinners and getting regular exercise is just part of preventing stroke reoccurrence. Lindy knows this, and has decided to eliminate all possible risk factors from her lifestyle. She knows that surviving one stroke is difficult enough. Those of you who have had strokes know this as well. Lindy and I hope that women who have not had strokes will take this subject seriously and make the necessary lifestyle changes. Just one risk factor can be enough to change your life forever.

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 About The Author
Nan Fuchs, Ph.D. is an authority on nutrition and the editor and writer of Women's Health Letter, the leading health advisory on nutritional healing for......moreNan Fuchs PhD
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