A stroke is defined as the sudden death of brain cells caused by inadequate blood flow to the brain. It is estimated that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 stokes in Canada every year. Sadly, 16,000 of those unfortunate individuals are not lucky enough to survive the stroke; making stroke-related deaths far more numerous than heart attack and atherosclerosis related deaths combined!
Most of us are aware that our overall cardiovascular health plays an important role in determining our heart attack risk, but did you know it also contributes greatly to your stroke risk? How you may ask? Well, many strokes occur because a buildup of deposits causes your artery walls to harden, and this reduces your body’s ability to deliver blood to your brain. Some other strokes occur because of a blockage of arteries within the brain. The most common cause of strokes however, is considered to be uncontrolled high blood pressure. If your cardiovascular health is in order, your arteries will remain healthy and elastic and your blood pressure will be stabilized; and your stroke risk should therefore be vastly reduced. Although there is no way to completely eliminate your stroke risk, supporting your cardiovascular system with natural heart remedies such as gingko and fish oil can help to lower your risk. Magnesium has long been revered as a natural heart remedy, and recent research suggests that a diet rich in this mineral also reduces your stroke risk.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. Recently Swedish researchers compiled data from seven separate studies that included more than 240,000 people, the results of which were published in the February 2012 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers examined the seven studies to see how much magnesium rich foods people consumed and how many of them had strokes, whilst statistically controlling for a variety of potentially confounding factors such as age, blood pressure, smoking, BMI, alcohol use, diabetes and family history. The researchers found a substantial correlation between a high dietary intake of magnesium and a lowered stroke risk. In fact, a “person’s risk of having a stroke decreased 8% for each additional 100 mg of magnesium,” they consumed per day.
Magnesium’s ability to reduce stroke risk may possibly be threefold. Firstly, magnesium is well known for its ability to reduce high blood pressure—the number one cause of strokes. Secondly, magnesium has been found to dilate arteries and increase blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. Finally, magnesium reduces the risk of blood clots and may thereby reduce thrombotic stroke risk, which occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the arteries that supplies blood to your brain.
The Swedish study only examined the effects of dietary magnesium and it did not confirm whether or not magnesium supplements would have the same stroke risk reducing effects. So until further studies are done, your best bet for lowering your risk for stroke is to emphasize the following magnesium rich foods: leafy green vegetables, legumes, beans, almonds, nuts and seeds, dairy products and whole grains.
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