Monday, June 13, 2011

B Vitamin Folate Lowers Stroke Risk by One-Quarter

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America each year with 700,000 people suffering needlessly from this debilitating illness. Stroke attacks with virtually no warning and can leave its victims unable to walk or perform the simplest task. Stroke risk increases with age, number of years consuming a nutrient-deficient diet and inactive lifestyle in a similar manner to heart disease.

Research published in the Lancet shows that members of the B-vitamin family, specifically folate (vitamin B9) from leafy green vegetables provide essential support to protect the vascular system by lowering platelet aggregation and levels of atherogenic homocysteine.

High Folate from Raw Vegetables Lower Stroke Risk by 25%
Researchers from the Northwestern School of Medicine performed a meta-analysis of eight significant studies and found that supplementation with folic acid reduced dangerous levels of homocysteine by 20% and lowered first time risk of a stroke by 25%. For individuals at risk for a second stroke, the incidence was lowered by 18%.

The human body requires folate to synthesize, repair and methylate DNA for cellular division and replication. Folate also helps to lower concentrations of homocysteine in the blood that are known to aggravate the inner endothelial lining of the vessels and arteries that feed the heart and brain. As a result of their analysis, the study authors concluded “Our findings indicate that folic acid supplementation can effectively reduce the risk of stroke in primary prevention.”

Folic Acid Supplementation Lowers Heart Attack Risk by 15%
In a similar meta-study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers found that supplementation with folic acid lowered the risk of a first heart attack by 15%. Elevated levels of homocysteine cause blood platelets to stick together and clump, increasing the risk of a thrombus or clot circulating to the coronary arteries and resulting in a heart attack. The entire family of B-vitamins is known to be critical to the prevention of heart disease and stroke by reducing arterial plaque accumulation and acting as a cofactor in cellular metabolism.

Deficiency in B vitamins and specifically folate has been linked with brain aging and cognitive decline. Folate provides a basic foundation for nerve health and brain aging and when reserves become lowered, toxic free radical damage is allowed to wreak havoc in the brain. In one study, individuals with the lowest levels of circulating folate experienced increased incidence of cognitive decline, poor mental function and risk of depression.

Top natural food sources of folate include leafy greens and vegetables including spinach, asparagus, parsley, broccoli and beets. Beans such as pinto, navy, black and kidney varieties provide a healthy dose of the nutrient as well. Depending on diet it may be necessary to supplement with folic acid. Nutrition experts recommend between 400 and 800 mcg daily taken with food to minimize your risk of stroke, heart disease and cognitive decline.

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