Any type of damage to the brain scares most people. Imagine a clot in your brain cutting off blood supply, killing brain cells that allow you to function.
While a survey of 100 people would likely yield all 100 of them voting to NOT damage his or her brain, it seems that most of these 100 people don’t opt to make lifestyle choices that will protect the brain.
Just in case this seems to be a little dramatic, I would point out that cardiovascular disease and stroke share almost identical risk factors. In a recent blog article I pointed out that not a single person out of over 7,100 were living a lifestyle that included “Life’s Simple 7.” These are simple lifestyle choices and yet not a single person in the study followed all seven.
Maybe lifestyle changes are just too darn hard to do. All that exercise, eating right, getting sleep and maintaining an ideal body weight is just too much work. And society just does not support a healthy lifestyle.
Aren’t there any simple approaches that can lower your risk of stroke? Keep in mind that I have never been and never will be a “single supplement for a single condition” person. Supplements should always be used as just one tool among a host of lifestyle changes designed to lower your risk of chronic disease.
That being said, sometimes supplements do show up in the medical literature demonstrating strong effects on preventing chronic disease. This particular study is just such a situation. In it, researchers looked at the ability of folic acid to lower the risk of stroke in a group of 20,702 patients with hypertension.
Patients were given either the high blood pressure drug enalapril or enalapril plus 800 mg folic acid. Here’s what they found after the study was stopped early because the benefits were clear:
- 7% of those in the enalapril–folic acid group had a first stroke.
- 4% of those in the enalapril alone group had a first stroke.
- Overall, those taking the folic acid had a 21% lower risk of having a stroke.
- The benefit of taking folic acid was far stronger in those who started the study with lower levels of folate in the blood (<5.6 ng/mL). First stroke of 2.8% vs 4.6%, a reduction of 39%.
The results of this study managed to make it to the top of many of the medical websites despite that fact that the absolute numbers are very small (0.7% and 1.8% in the low blood folate patients). We use the same excitement when we talk about statins and their ability to lower rates of heart attack.
One of the major differences here is that folic acid is a far safer and less expensive approach to protecting your health than the statin class of drugs. Besides this, statin drugs don’t actually fix anything. At all. Folic acid, on the other hand, plays a role in blood vessel health by lowering homocysteine levels, a known irritant to the blood vessels.
The bottom line, however, is not to run out and buy a folic acid supplement. Rather, a good quality multivitamin will contain a broad spectrum of high quality B vitamins including 800 mg of folic acid as well as vitamin B6 and B12 to make sure they all work well together.
One of my personal favorites is Pure Encapsulations’ Ultra Nutrient, which contains solid levels of folic acid and vitamin B12.