Like all parts of the body, the brain needs a continuous supply of oxygen to function properly. When that oxygen supply is cut off, brain tissues begin to die within min- utes, never to regenerate. This tissue death is what happens during a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the brain is blocked or inter- rupted; the extent of the damage to the brain usually depends upon the length of the interruption and the speed with which treatment is received. As most of us know, strokes are extremely serious and often fatal. They are the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer.
An overwhelming percentage of strokes are caused by arteriosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits build up inside the arterial walls and obstruct blood ﬂow. An artery leading to the brain may become so thick with plaque that the passage of blood is effectively blocked. The blood supply may also be shut off if a clot lodges itself in an artery that’s already damaged and narrow. In a few cases, a cerebral blood vessel will actually rupture. High blood pressure is also a major predisposition to strokes, which damage the arteries and may cause a rupture; it, too, can often be
managed with proper diet, exercise, supplementation, and stress management (see
Blood Pressure, High).
Although we’ve been conditioned to think of strokes as tragic but unpreventable accidents that occur in old age, the truth is that arteriosclerosis is often a condition caused or made more probable by controllable lifestyle factors. Although arteries do tend to weaken, as we get older, poor diet and lack of exercise, along with uncontrolled stress, are reasons that plaque builds up in the arteries in the ﬁrst place. Genetic car- diovascular risk factors also play a role for many people. See the Cardiovascular Dis- ease section for a more in-depth discussion of these risk factors.
A few other factors also increase the risk for stroke. If you have an irregular heart- beat or a damaged heart valve or have suffered a recent heart attack, you should be espe- cially vigilant about your health and should be monitored regularly by a doctor. Women who take oral contraceptives and who smoke also have a greater chance of developing blood clots, as so women on certain types of synthetic hormone replacement.
If you have a stroke, you have a signiﬁcantly greater chance of surviving and even fully recovering when you receive medical treatment within three hours after the symptoms begin—the earlier, the better. Call an ambulance or get to an emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: weakness or numbness along one side of the body; difﬁculty talking or understanding speech; blurred vision; confusion; a sudden, intense headache; unexplained dizziness or loss of balance; or loss of consciousness. These symptoms may come on suddenly, within a matter of seconds or minutes, or they may develop over the course of a day or two. If you have arteriosclerosis or are over ﬁfty, you should be aware of these stroke warn- ing signs so that you know when to get help, should it ever be necessary.
It’s difﬁcult to say exactly what the consequences of a stroke will be. The damage largely depends upon which brain tissues are deprived of oxygen and how long the interruption of blood ﬂow lasts. If the blood ﬂow is suspended for only a few seconds, you may experience visual and speech problems, weakness, trembling, or confusion, but it’s likely that you’ll soon return to normal. People who survive longer periods of oxygen deprivation may suffer lasting damage to their vision, speech, coordination, or movement, although physical therapy may restore some or even total functioning.
• Paralysis or numbness on one side of the face or the body
• A sudden, severe headache
• Blurred vision or blindness
• Impaired speech
• An inability to understand others’ speech
• Loss of balance
• Loss of consciousness
• Poor diet
• Genetic cardiovascular risk factors(elevated ﬁbrinogen, homocysteine,
• High blood pressure
• Blood that clots too easily
• Irregular heartbeat
• Damaged heart valve
• Oral contraceptives (especially in women over thirty-ﬁve)
• Synthetic hormone replacement
The following tests help to assess your stroke risk:
Cardiovascular risk factors (cholesterol, homocysteine, ﬁbrinogen, etc)—
blood (see the Cardiovascular Disease section for more information) Blood pressure
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, E, potassium, CoQ10)—blood
Essential fatty acid balance—blood
Toxic metals—hair or urine
If you experience any of the symptoms listed previously, get medical help immedi- ately. The following treatments will assist in the recovery from strokes or will pre- vent future strokes from occurring, but they cannot substitute for emergency care by doctors.
If you have arteriosclerosis, see the Cardiovascular Disease section for further sug- gestions. For high blood pressure, see Blood Pressure, High.
Follow a diet consisting of whole, natural foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, ﬁsh, nuts, and seeds. This eating plan, which is high in nutrients and ﬁber, will reduce your risk of forming blood clots.
review of studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of ischemic stroke. This review included 75,596 women, ages 34 to 59 years, in the Nurses’ Health Study and 38,683 men, ages 40 to 75 years, in the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study. An increment of one serving per day of fruits or vegetables was associated
with a 6 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke. Researchers found that crucifer- ous and green leafy vegetables, as
well as citrus fruit and juice, were most helpful in decreasing ischemic stroke risk.
The antioxidants in these foods will also counteract free-radical damage, making you less likely to develop arteriosclerosis.
Fish are high in essential fatty acids and decrease your risk of stroke. They contain “good” fats that improve circulation and act as natural blood thinners. The Nurses’ Health Study found a sig- niﬁcant decrease in the risk of thrombotic stroke among women who ate ﬁsh at least two times per week, when compared with the risk in women who ate ﬁsh less than once per month. Although you should eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, try to have a couple of servings of those that are blue-red or purple in color at least twice a day. Purple grapes, berries, red cabbage, and egg- plant are all high in anthocyanidins, a substance that lowers the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Potassium helps to reduce blood pressure and thereby decreases stroke risk. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, toma- toes, potatoes, and citrus fruits.
Consume green and white tea, which contains powerful antioxidants.
Food to Avoid
A diet that’s high in saturated and trans-fatty acids is thought to be a leading cause of both arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure. Eliminate red meat, butter, fried and greasy food, and all junk food from your diet. You must also avoid margarine and shortening, as well as products made with these items. This includes many sweet baked goods. Vegetable oils should not be used for frying. The exception is canola oil.
Although we don’t tend to think of sugar as a cause of heart disease, high amounts of it will increase the inﬂammation in artery walls. Decrease the amount of simple sugars in the diet, such as those from white breads, pastas, candy, and soda pop.
Sodium can send blood pressure levels soaring in many people. Don’t use table salt, and avoid processed food, which is the leading source of sodium in the American diet.
If you’ve had a stroke, do not undergo any kind of fasting program until your doctor has told you that your condition is stable. Fresh vegetable juices are excellent for detoxiﬁcation. Make them fresh or buy super green food powder drinks.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Stroke
Super Prescription #1 High-potency multivitamin
Take as directed on the container. It contains a variety of antioxidants, as well as minerals that are associated with reducing the risk of stroke.
Super Prescription #2 Garlic (Allium sativum)
Take 300 to 500 mg of aged garlic twice daily. It reduces cholesterol levels and increases HDL cholesterol.
Super Prescription #3 Fish oil
Take a daily dosage of a ﬁsh oil product containing 1,000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA. Fish oil reduces inﬂammation in the arteries and lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Super Prescription #4 Policosanol
Take 10 to 20 mg each evening. Numerous studies show that policosanol reduces total and LDL cholesterol and increases the good HDL cholesterol.
Super Prescription #5 Vitamin E
Take 400 IU daily of a mixed complex. It prevents cholesterol oxidation and is a natural blood thinner.
Super Prescription #6 Ginkgo biloba
Take 180 to 240 mg daily of a 24 percent ﬂavone glycoside extract. Ginkgo has blood-thinning and antioxidant properties.
Super Prescription #7 Green tea (Camellia sinensis) extract
Take 500 to 1,500 mg of the capsule form. Look for a product standardized to between 80 and 90 percent polyphenols and between 35 and 55 percent epigallo- catechin gallate. Green tea contains a rich source of antioxidants and substances that assist detoxiﬁcation.
Pantetheine is a metabolite of vitamin B5 that has been shown in studies to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, as well to increase HDL. It can be particularly effective for people with diabetes. Take 600 to 900 mg daily.
Soy protein has been shown in studies to reduce total and LDL cholesterol and to increase HDL. Take 25 to 50 grams daily.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a mushroom extract that reduces cholesterol. Take
800 mg two to three times daily.
Vitamin E prevents LDL oxidation. Take 400 to 800 IU of a mixed blend daily.
Vitamin C reduces total cholesterol and LDL levels and acts to prevent their oxidation.
If you experience the symptoms of a stroke, you must get medical assistance at once. The following remedies may be helpful as part of a comprehensive stroke recovery protocol. Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x,
12x, 6C, 12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any pos- itive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Aconitum Napellus will help calm someone who’s panicked and afraid of dying while waiting for medical attention. Take a 30C potency or whatever potency is available.
Baryta Carbonica is a good remedy when there is mental weakness after a stroke and weakness on one side of the body. The person has childish characteristics as a result of the stroke.
Causticum is indicated for paralysis of the muscles of speech, paralysis of the blad- der, and numbness of the hands and the feet. It is a speciﬁc remedy for right-sided paralysis.
Gelsemium Sempervirens is helpful for after effects of a stroke, characterized by muscle weakness and trembling, numbness of the face and the tongue, and the eye- lids remaining half opened.
Lachesis Mutas is for left-sided paralysis after a stroke and for paralysis of the throat and the tongue.
• Gallbladder 20 and 21 stimulate circulation, especially to the head.
• Use Liver 3 to induce a sense of peacefulness and calm.
Have frequent circulatory massages to increase your energy and sense of well-being.
Work the spine to stimulate any damaged nerves and promote good circulation. People who’ve suffered a stroke often have some numbness or paralysis on one side
of their bodies. Reﬂexology can encourage the healing process. If your left side is damaged, work the big toe on the right foot. If the stroke has affected your right side, work the big toe on the left foot.
In addition, you should massage the regions that correspond to any affected body parts.
Other Bodywork Recommendations
Acupuncture can be very helpful in speeding recovery and as a complement to phys- ical therapy. Acupuncture treatments should begin as soon as possible after one has suffered a stroke.
Mix a few drops of juniper with a carrier oil, and use in a massage to help break down toxins in the blood and carry them out of the body. You can also add juniper to a bath.
Black pepper, ginger, and rosemary all stimulate circulation. Again, you can use them in a massage or a bath.
If you feel fatigued, geranium, jasmine, neroli, bergamot, and rose can give a lift to your energy levels and your mood. These oils can also aid in stress reduction. Use them in any preparation you like.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Stress-reduction techniques, which include exercise, prayer, yoga, and positive men- tal imagery, should be incorporated as part of stroke recovery.
Bach Flower Remedies
Following are some suggestions, Once you’ve chosen a rem- edy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If you feel defeated and believe that nothing will ever make you feel better, take
Impatiens is for highly efﬁcient people who cannot tolerate those who think or move slowly.
If you tend to be controlling and overprotective, especially around family mem- bers, use Chicory.
Perfectionists who ﬁnd it hard to work or live with people who do not share their views should use Beech.
Crab Apple will help people who are debilitated by a stroke and are ashamed of their ailments.
• Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may help you to recover from a stroke, as it improves oxygen ﬂow to the brain. Consult with a doctor who was trained in this therapy.
• As with other circulatory conditions, exercise is an important factor in both recovery from and prevention of stroke. You don’t have to climb mountains a daily walk or swim will sufﬁce. Try to exercise in the early morning sunshine, which will lift your spirits.
• Stop smoking. This habit increases the risk of high blood and arteriosclerosis, the two most frequent causes of stroke.
• If you have diabetes, you’re at risk for circulatory diseases like strokes and heart problems. You must eat well, exercise, manage stress, and work closely with an experienced doctor. For more information, see Diabetes.
• People who are overweight are more vulnerable to strokes than the rest of the population is. The diet and exercise guidelines here should help you lose weight, but if you want further suggestions, see Obesity.