Recently two medical studies on stroke have been released. The first is found in the Journal, Developmental Biology. The lead researcher has reported on using stem cells to repair neural damage. This is exciting because stroke is still a leading cause of death ranking third or fourth as a cause of death depending on the source cited. These stem cells might be able to help in the damage to neurons of the brain. Strokes not only causes death but disability and stress on those caring for stroke victims. Often stoke victims cannot care for themselves, have problems swallowing or walking, and cannot communicate effectively.

The second article is from the Journal Stroke published by The American Heart Association. This article was an analysis on many studies done on stroke. The researchers looked at 760,629 men and women with 16,981 strokes and concluded that there was a 32% reduction in stroke for those eating fruit and an 11% reduction for those eating vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have phytonutrients that change the chemistry of the entire body lowering blood pressure, decreasing inflammation and oxidation and improving the function of the blood vessels. Those eating more fruits and vegetables also tend to eat less processed fats which damage the endothelium and decrease the amount of an important regulator of blood vessel size. This substance is called nitric oxide.

Factors which increase the risk of stroke include diabetes, previous stoke, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation. One in 10 over eighty years of age have atrial fibrillation. In this condition, the top part of the heart, the atria, beat irregularly irregular. This causes blood to move slower and increases the risk of a clot. This clot could be pumped to the brain causing a stroke. A person is five times more likely to have a stroke if atrial fibrillation is present. It has been estimated that 15% of all those with atrial fibrillation will have a stroke. Many do not want to take a blood thinner to lower their risk of stroke, but I am more fearful of a stroke than the side effects of a blood thinner. Of course with any medication the overall risks and benefits must be considered. If unstable on their feet, a history of bleeding or anemia might make the risk greater than the benefit.

Needless to say we want to lower the risk of stroke by watching the blood pressure, treating diabetes, high cholesterol, and watching for atrial fibrillation. What about if someone is having a stroke right now? The acronym FAST is useful. F is for face looking abnormal especially a droop or asymmetry. A is for arms not being able to hold them up normally, S is for speech which is abnormal. T is for time. If a stroke is suspected call 911 right away. The sooner the treatment the better. There are now many options for acute care of stroke especially if we act quickly. On the program this week, we are going to interview physicians who are experts in strokes. New procedures to abort stroke are now being developed. I will talk to the front-line doctors. I hope no one ever suffers a stroke so I want all of us to eat more fruits and vegetables and do everything we can to prevent stroke as well as knowing what to do if stroke symptoms develop. I am hopeful that stem cells will help those who have had stroke. I am also grateful we have an Ultimate Physician who will heal all strokes in His time.