According the National Stroke Association, stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death in Americans and is 80% preventable. A stroke, “or brain attack,” occurs when a clot prevents blood flow to the brain. The resulting lack of oxygen and nutrients creates a condition known as ischemia. Due to the fact that the brain cells can not receive proper nutrients, they have the potential to deteriorate and die. This can lead to lasting neurological issues for stroke victims. The good news is that nutrition and lifestyle factors could play a key role in preventative measures.

There exists continual mounting evidence in favor of fish oil’s omega fatty acid content on brain cognitive health and new research into brain vitamins are also gaining popularity. A recent study assessed the use of extended release niacin in rats who demonstrated ischemic stroke. The researchers found that the rats receiving the niacin exhibited new blood vessels and sprouting nerve cells in the brain! The implications of these results point to niacin having a healing effect on brain cells.

According to the article,

In 2009, stroke physicians at Henry Ford Hospital published research which showed that HDL-C is abnormally low at the time stroke patients arrive at the hospital.

Niacin is known to be the most effective medicine in current clinical use for increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), which helps those fatty deposits…

Dr. Chopp’s research found that in animals, niacin increased “good” cholesterol (HDL-C), which increased blood vessels in the brain and axonal and dendritic growth leading to a substantial improvement in neurological function.

“If this proves to also work well in our human trials, we’ll then have the benefit of a low-cost, easily-tolerable treatment for one of the most neurologically devastating conditions,” Michael Chopp, Ph.D., scientific director of the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute.

This article was also online at medical news today.

Another answer to brain health could be right under your nose from those oxygen-delivering sesquiterenes in essential oils. An Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2006;26:000-000 demonstrated how the sesquiterpene, Parthenolide, isolated from Tanacetum parthenum, modulates the NF-B–Mediated Inflammatoryresponse in atherosclerosis. Several lines of evidence demonstrated that anti-inflammatory actions are beneficial in reducing atherosclerosis, “the hardening of arteries.”

And, a sweet tasting solution! I couldn’t resist this link on chocolate and stroke risk:
Eating chocolate may lower your risk of having a stroke, according to an analysis of available research that was released February 11 and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto April 10 to April 17, 2010. Another study found that eating chocolate may lower the risk of death after suffering a stroke.

Dr. Sarah, is this too good to be true? Maybe.

The study is a correlation relationship study, not a causation. Meaning eating chocolate is associated with lower risk, not the cause. Other factors could come into play.

The first study found that 44,489 people who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who ate no chocolate. The second study found that 1,169 people who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week were 46 percent less likely to die following a stroke than people who did not eat chocolate.

The researchers found only one additional relevant study in their search of all the available research. That study found no link between eating chocolate and risk of stroke or death.
Two points to remember. One, the quality of chocolate is important. This means at least 70% dark organic chocolate which is the only type of chocolate that still contains all the nutritive factors. Furthermore, remember that according to Dr. Johnny Bowden, longevity expert on healthy foods, not everyone has the genetic predisposition to do well on caffeine. Some have a slower liver detoxification system, making the phytonutrients in chocolate trumped by its caffeine content.
Take home message: Nutrients and phytochemicals are being explored as preventive and healing factors in those suffering from ischemic strokes. This knowledge creates empowerment and enabling you to take control of your own lifestyle choices to put health back in your own hands. A licensed and knowledgeable integrative pract practitioner can guide you to therapeutic sources that fit into your lifestyle.