Stroke is a major killer of Americans, claiming a life every 4 minutes, and is a leading cause of disability (Roger 2012; NSA 2012e). According to a 2012 report from the American Heart Association, about half of stroke survivors 65 or older had some difficulty with movement on one side of their body and over a quarter were institutionalized or in a nursing home 6 months following their stroke (Roger 2012).
A stroke is the result of loss of blood flow, and subsequently oxygen, to part of the brain. Stroke can be caused by either blockage, or rupture and subsequent hemorrhage (bleeding), of a blood vessel in the brain (PubMed Health 2012).
About 54% of stroke deaths happen outside of the hospital. This is partly because many stroke victims do not get to the hospital in time to receive potentially life-saving treatment (Washington State Dept. of Health 2012; Roger 2012).
Receiving emergency treatment within 4.5 hours of stroke onset can mean the difference between life and death (Del Zoppo 2009; Miller 2012). Unfortunately, one study showed that the median time to emergency department admission was 16 hours after onset of stroke symptoms. Only about half of the patients in this study were able to identify one stroke symptom (Zerwic 2007). Knowledge of signs and symptoms of stroke can help victims and their caregivers obtain emergency treatment in a timely manner (NSA 2012e; Roger 2012).
In addition to knowing how to react if stroke symptoms occur, Life Extension emphasizes the need for all aging individuals to take proactive stroke prevention measures. Also, recognition of an epidemic of “silent” strokes is critical. Silent strokes, or mini-strokes, do not cause outright stroke symptoms, but are associated with cognitive dysfunction and increase risk for overt stroke. Estimates indicate that over a quarter of the elderly population has experienced a silent stroke (Saini 2012; Masuda 2001; Lim 2010). Being aware of and taking steps to modify factors that increase stroke risk is paramount in reducing the likelihood of having a stroke or silent stroke (Slark 2012; Lim 2010). In one study, over 40% of possible stroke patients were unable to identify one stroke risk factor (Kothari 1997).
Maintaining optimal blood pressure levels is one of the most important ways to minimize stroke risk. For example, research suggests that people with blood pressure lower than 120/80 mmHg are about half as likely to suffer a stroke as those with higher blood pressure. It has also been reported that each 20/10 mmHg increase over 115/75 mmHg doubles the risk of several vascular complications, including heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease (Franco 2004). Similarly, having impaired glucose tolerance nearly doubles stroke risk. Low levels of HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) and heart rhythm irregularities also significantly increase chances of having a stroke, and people with sleep apnea have twice the risk (Roger 2012).
The good news is that dietary and lifestyle management strategies coupled with natural compounds and certain drugs can target stroke risk factors. Also, comprehensive blood testing can help identify correctable factors involved in stroke and thus help guide prevention strategies.
This protocol will review the different types of stroke and their causes, risk factors, signs, and symptoms. Conventional treatments will be discussed, and strategies to mitigate stroke risk using integrative and scientifically studied natural modalities will be examined.