Strokes and TIA's • What are they?

A TIA is often referred to as a "mini-stroke." A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when blood flow to the brain is reduced and it corrects in a short period of time.

Strokes & TIAs - Image of glasses of carrot juice and fresh, whole carrots

With stroke, the blood flow remains blocked and the brain has permanent damage. Damage can occur with a TIA as well, but if you get to a doctor quickly, damage can be avoided. Symptoms for both are much the same.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

  • Comprehension difficulty
  • Loss of balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis, typically on one side of the body

RISK FACTORS

Factors out of your control:

  • Age (risk increases with age)
  • Heredity
  • Prior attack or stroke
  • Race (blacks are at more risk of dying of a stroke; related to high blood pressure)
  • Sex (men more likely to have a stroke)
  • Sickle cell disease

Factors within your control in varying degrees:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • Drug use
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Excess salt consumption
  • Excess weight
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Inactivity
  • Palmitic acid-containing foods (most saturated fats)
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking

ALLOPATHIC TREATMENT

Medical intervention may include one or more of medications, surgery or angioplasty.

SELF TREATMENT

The goal with self-treatment is to give your body the best possible chance to avoid strokes (mini or otherwise) and once having had one, to strengthen your immune system and correct lifestyle habits that contributed to the condition.

DIET

A healthy immune system is always the first line of defense against disease and inflammation. To promote a healthy immune system, it is important to eat a balanced diet, with as much variety as you can manage, with lots of whole, fresh vegetables and fruits, quality protein and healthy sources of monounsaturated fat. The Zone is an excellent starting point.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center designed a “MIND” diet, which is short for “Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.”  It’s very much like the Zone Diet except that the MIND diet recommends whole grains while the Zone Diet recommends keeping grain consumption to a bare minimum.  The MIND diet recommends limiting cheese to once a week.  Dr. Sears published a book in 2014 called called “The Mediterranean Zone,”  which is fundamentally the same diet he designed in 1995, but with more stress on the importance of polyphenols.

It may be more difficult to eat after having a stroke as you may be suffering from loss of movement, confusion or a depressed appetite. You may need help in getting the nutrition you need.

There is no one magic food that will restore your health. Your food choices must include a wide range of quality foods, and the way you eat them should be designed to reduce inflammation. There certainly are a number of substances you can avoid in order to cut your risk of having another stroke.

FOODS AND OTHER SUBSTANCES TO AVOID OR REDUCE

  • Additives and artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol
  • Excessive salt
  • Excessive saturated fats
  • Fried foods
  • Junk food of any kind which are little more than empty calories
  • Magarine (because it’s sort of like eating plastic)
  • Processed foods
  • Processed sugars
  • Red meat (reduce to a few times a week for the MIND diet and that many times or less a month for the Zone Diet)
  • Smoking
  • Trans fats

LIQUIDS AND OILS THAT MAY PROMOTE HEALING

  • Apple Cider Vinegar in water daily
  • Coconut oil
  • Raw fresh juices, especially carrot

HERBS AND SPICES

Most herbs can be taken as supplements, used in cooking, or made into tea. You can use herbs for poultices and in sachets.

  • Amaranthus
  • Asian ginseng
  • Astragalus
  • Baikal skullcap
  • Bilberry
  • Calamus
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chinese motherwort
  • Evening primrose
  • Ginger
  • Ginkgo Biloba to prevent blood clots and reduce BP
  • Ginseng
  • Grape-seed extract
  • Green tea
  • Kava kava
  • Pine bark
  • Pomegranate concentrate
  • Turmeric
  • Turmeric tea
  • Willow bark (anticoagulant—consult your doctor)

ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils can be administered via a diffuser for inhalation, administered topically in a carrier oil (coconut, almond, olive, etc.), or undiluted drops can be added to a hot bath or compress. Find recipes for blends on the web or create your own. The stroke patient might benefit from using oils designed for easing anxiety. See entry for Anxiety.

  • Bergamot
  • Cedarwood
  • Cistus
  • Clove
  • Cypress
  • Dorado azul
  • Douglas fir
  • Grapefruit
  • Helichrysum
  • Idaho balsam fir
  • Juniper
  • Nutmeg
  • Orange
  • Palo santo
  • Ravintsara
  • Sandalwood
  • Valor
  • Vetiver

OTHER SUBSTANCES AND SUPPLEMENTS

The cost of having a blood test to determine if you have nutritional deficiencies is likely to be negligible compared to over-consuming expensive supplements that you do not need.

  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Bromelain
  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Omega 3’s
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin B complex (esp. 6 and 12)
  • Vitamin C

HYDRATION

Proper hydration at the time of a stroke gives you a better chance of recovery Water is essential and a main nutrient for the human body. Without it, you cannot survive for many days. Staying hydrated is fundamental for a healthy body, so how much is enough? There are so many differences in people (i.e., how much we sweat), as well as the diets we consume (a lot of water comes from healthy, whole foods), but a general rule is to consume enough water that your urine is clear, but not so much that you dilute your nutrients. If you are taking certain supplements that make your urine yellow, then you can start out with the formula of drinking ½ to one ounce of water for each pound you weigh. If you weigh 130 pounds, drink 65 to 130 ounces of water a day. Definitely drink when you are thirsty.

EXERCISE

Exercise lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It’s now doubly important for you to exercise if you’ve had a stroke. It will help you regain some of what you have lost and will protect you against future events. That exercise is beneficial for overall health is undisputed. If you are ill, you will want to take it easy, of course, but there is always something you can do to support your body. Do what you can do without making yourself feel worse. Exercise in fresh air whenever possible.

SLEEP

Sleep is important for brain healing. Studies show that lack of quality sleep affects the production of disease-fighting antibodies. One study indicates an association between fragmented sleep patterns and amyloid plaque buildup in the brain.  It may be more difficult to sleep after a stroke and it is something you can discuss with your doctor. Read the entry for Insomnia for some sleep tips.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Stress will make your condition worse. Stay calm. Anxiety undermines health. Practice relaxation exercises, talk to a friend, meditate. Do what works for you to keep mellow. Some of the following relaxation methods may be helpful for you:

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO

  • Epsom salt bath
  • Eat English peas or soy foods for the compound genistein

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

CAUTIONS

Herbal treatments can interfere with medications so consult your doctor before undertaking any self-treatment with herbs, spices or supplements.

PREVENTION

  • A wholesome, balanced diet
  • Adequate hydration
  • Regular exercise
  • Low stress levels
  • Quality sleep
  • Control the risk factors that you can control.
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