20 Ways To Prevent a Stroke with Diet, Enzymes, Herbs and moreDr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. March 27, 2022
Harvard Medical School published an article about seven ways to prevent a stroke in June of 2020. The strategies for stroke prevention that Harvard advised are as follows: 1) Lower blood pressure 2) Treat atrial fibrillation 3) Lose weight 4) Treat diabetes 5) Exercise more 6) Quit smoking 7) Drink alcohol only in moderation.
I’m not disagreeing with any of this, but there are at least another dozen natural approaches they ignored that can help prevent strokes in both healthy people and those compromised by conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Reduce/Eliminate Risk Factors
- DRUG USE: Narcotics (e.g. cocaine, heroin) and amphetamines increase the risk of stroke. Some children who have been prescribed various amphetamines for ADHD (Ritalin, Adderal, Strattera, Vyvance, etc.) have developed strokes and even death as a result of these drugs. Look for natural alternatives. Thankfully, Harvard did not recommend daily ASA (aspirin) for stroke prevention because it is unproven. Even the U.S. FDA has warned that daily ASA does not prevent strokes in healthy people. In fact, the risks of using daily ASA outweighs any benefits in cardiovascular disease prevention, including gastrointestinal bleeding.)
- SLEEP APNEA AND INSOMNIA: These conditions can lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. This is a growing problem as can be evidenced by the increasing presence of sleep disorder clinics and the sales of CPAP machines.
- VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY: Low vitamin D levels are linked to a higher risk for stroke. Don’t forget that the brain has vitamin D receptors for a reason. Low levels can increase brain inflammation and disrupt brain function.
- ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS (e.g. aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, cyclamates, etc): can triple the risk of stroke. These chemicals actually can destroy the friendly bacteria in the gut and increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Don’t forget about the existence of the gut-brain connection. What happens in the gut often manifests in the brain. Safer sweeteners include honey, stevia, and xylitol.
- ORAL CONTRACEPTIVES AND SYNTHETIC HRT: can increase the risk of stroke even for women in their 20s. Bioidentical HRT does not carry the same high level of risk and is more likely to be well tolerated by the body.
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): such as ASA, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others can elevate blood pressure and increase stroke risk.
- REDUCE STRESS to help prevent high blood pressure. There are many ways of doing this (e.g. meditation, yoga, exercise, massage therapy, psychotherapy, acupuncture). Stress-reducing supplements include magnesium, melatonin, B complex vitamins, inositol, L-theanine, L-threonine, GABA, 5-HTP, passion flower, valerian, St. John’s wort and L-tryptophan.
Nutritional Medicine for Stroke Prevention
“The medical literature tells us that the most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more problems are through healthy diet and exercise. Our bodies have evolved to move, yet we now use the energy in oil instead of muscles to do our work.” ~ David Suzuki
1. IDEAL DIET – It’s not just enough to lose weight. (Jenny Craig are you listening?) There is evidence that the ideal diet for stroke prevention is the Mediterranean diet. This diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, red wine in moderation, lots of fish and whole grains, and no refined sugar or high-fat red meats, fried or processed fast foods. Most people following this regime on a consistent basis will see more optimal weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure control. See references at the end of this article for more information on how to apply this diet in daily life.
2. NATTOKINASE (100 mg, 3 times daily) – is an enzyme isolated from natto, a Japanese food eaten for millennia, made from fermented soybeans. Japanese folklore medicine has traditionally used it for improving cardiovascular health. Studies show that, taken orally, nattokinase can break down and dissolve fibrinogen, a component of blood clots and plaques in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Nattokinase increases the body’s production of plasmin and other thrombolytic enzymes such as urokinase. It improves blood viscosity and circulation in general. Regular use of nattokinase can lower high systolic and high diastolic blood pressure. It also helps optimize blood cholesterol.
No side effects have ever been reported when nattokinase is taken on its own (without blood-thinning drugs, anti-hypertensives, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and it does not lower blood pressure in those who usually have normal readings. It is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and does not require injections. Potential side effects like excessive bleeding or bruising can occur when nattokinase is taken in conjunction with blood thinning drugs, aspirin, NSAIDs, or anti-hypertensive medication. So, if you are taking any of these drugs on a regular basis, see a natural healthcare provider who can guide you with using nattokinase.
Please note that nattokinase is not recognized by mainstream conventional medical authorities as a safe or effective alternative to prescription anticoagulants.
(Editor’s note: For an in depth article by Dr. Rona on nattokinase, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/drrona-natto)
3. BLACK OR GREEN TEA – Drink three cups of black or green tea each day because of their high levels of antioxidants and the amino acid L-theanine. Hibiscus herb tea can also reduce high blood pressure and none of these teas will interact with blood thinning medications. Take care if drinking ginger root herb tea because ginger can interact with blood thinning medications. Avoid licorice tea or supplements as licorice has been shown to increase blood pressure.
4. POMEGRANATE JUICE – reduces inflammation, can help lower high blood pressure, and can boost heart health.
5. CONTROL BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS – with a low glycemic index diet. Eliminate refined sugars, grains, starches, and alcohol. For more information on this, see https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/healing-diabetes-naturally/. The Mediterranean diet, minus the grains and starches should work well here too.
6. VITAMIN D – Since vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for stroke, supplementing with a high-quality vitamin D or getting plenty of sunscreen-free sunshine can help prevent strokes, primarily by reducing inflammation. Mushrooms, raw milk, and free-range eggs are good food sources of vitamin D. So are fish and seafood but, due to mercury contamination, large intakes of fish are discouraged.
For best outcome, it is beneficial to take Vitamin K2 together with D3. According to Dr. Ron Hunninghake, MD: “Vitamin D3’s natural partner is vitamin K2. The genius of this combo begins with proper respect for D3’s function of powerfully enhancing calcium absorption. Recent research has shown that excessive calcium intake alone can be harmful to the body. The additional calcium must be correctly utilized or it can show up in the wrong places and cause disease… By conscientiously using vitamin K2 in conjunction with D3, this issue of “metastatic calcium” is thoroughly avoided.” However, those taking the drug Warfarin should avoid combining K2 and D3 because vitamin K can offset Warfarin, a common blood thinning drug.
A patient recently told me that she had sat near a window in my waiting room to get more vitamin D from the winter sunshine. I had to tell her that sun radiation through a window doesn’t raise vitamin D in the skin. In fact, it can be damaging to the skin. Secondly, the angle of the sun during winter months is incapable of increasing vitamin D in the skin even if you took off all your clothes and stood outdoors naked at high noon. To make vitamin D under the skin, sunlight must come from a more direct overhead angle and that only occurs during Canada’s summer months. Who knew?
7. GARLIC – is effective at lowering high blood pressure, lowering high LDL-cholesterol and thinning the blood naturally. Unless you are on blood thinner medication, virtually any amount is safe. There are deodorized forms that can be used to get the same benefits without offending people socially.
8. VITAMIN C AND BIOFLAVONOIDS – such as quercetin and bilberry, can improve blood vessel integrity and the health of the cardiovascular system in general. The effective dose is dependent on individual factors such as stress, physical activity, and general health.
There is a mistaken belief out there that vitamin C encourages blood thinning, but there is no evidence of this published anywhere. In fact, vitamin C and bioflavonoids strengthen the walls of blood vessels, preventing excessive bleeding.
9. RESVERATROL – is a compound found in grapes, red wine and peanuts that has been found to improve blood flow in the brain and prevent strokes. As a supplement, in dosages of 80 mg or more, it is often recommended as a life extending agent.
10. B COMPLEX VITAMINS (especially folic acid, vitamin B6, betaine and vitamin B12; 100 mg daily) – supplementation may be associated with decreased risk of stroke.
11. VITAMIN E (400 – 800 IU daily) – provides natural blood thinning effects and can also reduce stroke risk. When purchasing vitamin E supplements, get the full vitamin E spectrum that contains alpha, gamma, delta tocopherols as well as the tocotrienols. Too much vitamin E can cause unwanted bleeding if used in conjunction with prescription blood thinners.
12. L-CARNOSINE (1,000 mg daily) – is an amino acid with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-glycation, anti-ischaemic and chelating benefits often recommended for its life extending properties. It has potential preventive and therapeutic benefits in regards to obesity, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, diabetes, and neurological and mental health conditions.
13. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS – (4,000 mg daily) from fish or krill help thin the blood, improving circulation. Strict vegetarians can source these from algae supplements like spirulina, blue green algae, and chlorella. It should be noted that there are also vegan forms of omega-3 just as effective as the marine sources. These are broadly available in health food stores.
14. BLACK SEED OIL (Nigella Sativa), (1,000 mg or more daily) – is another potent natural anti-inflammatory oil supplement that can improve brain health and prevent brain cell damage. (It is sometimes said that black seed oil cures everything except death.)
15. GINKGO BILOBA extract (40 mg daily) – improves circulation and acts as a safe blood thinner. Many people use this herbal supplement to enhance memory. Care should be taken if one is on warfarin or other blood thinners due to its ability to interact with those drugs.
16. VINPOCETINE (5 mg daily) – is a vasodilator which allows more oxygen to the brain. It is also often recommended as a memory enhancer and is usually found in brain function improvement formulas. According to health writer Cathy Wong, “Vinpocetine is a synthetic compound derived from vincamine, a substance found naturally in the leaves of the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor). Vinpocetine is available as a prescription drug in Europe and Japan. In the United States and Canada, it’s sold in health food stores and online as a dietary supplement.” 
17. MAGNESIUM L-THREONATE (1,000 mg daily) – can also dilate blood vessels and improve circulation. It too has memory enhancing properties. Other forms of magnesium like magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium citrate or oxide do not reach the brain as easily as the L-threonate form. Transdermal forms of magnesium like magnesium chloride will also not work as well as the L-threonate form.
18. CURCUMIN (1,000 mg or more daily) – curtails LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, can help control high blood sugar levels, protects the liver and reduces inflammation that could lead to strokes.
19. SERRAPEPTASE (120,000 units or more daily) – is an enzyme originating from the silkworm that can gobble up and get rid of arterial plaque. It has been used in place of intravenous chelation therapy mostly in Europe and was pioneered by well-known physician Dr. Hans Nieper, in Germany well over 50 years ago. This supplement should definitely be considered by anyone with hardening of the arteries but should be used with care if used in combination with blood thinning medication.
20. ALPHA LIPOIC ACID (500 mg or more daily) is best known for its liver protective benefits but it has been used extensively to help lower high blood glucose levels that could trigger strokes. There is also some evidence that it can improve the peripheral neuropathy complication associated with diabetes.
No one needs to take all these natural remedies all the time so it’s advisable to see a natural healthcare practitioner to get a personalized regime that can be followed for life. Certainly, it’s important to get a professional viewpoint when one is on prescription medication, especially if blood thinners are involved, to avoid drug-nutrient interactions.
- Harvard Medical School: “Seven things you can do to prevent a stroke”: https://tinyurl.com/yyxut9cx
- Mediterranean diet for stroke prevention: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22034786
- Medical News Today: Guide to the Mediterranean diet: https://tinyurl.com/y6btpurh
- Complementary and alternative treatments for stroke. https://www.healthline.com/health/stroke/alternative-treatments#supplements
- Risk of bleeding outweighs benefits of aspirin: https://tinyurl.com/yyu8kq6m
MORE ARTICLES BY DR. RONA ARCHIVED ON VITALITYMAGAZINE.COM
- “How to Survive Western Medicine”, Top 20 Supplements That Repair the Damage Caused by Nutrient-Depleting Medications: https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/how-to-survive-western-medicine/
- “Treating Depression Naturally”: https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/drugs-you-may-not-need/
Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc, offers consultations on nutrition and natural remedies in Thornhill. He has recently retired from medical practice as a Complementary and Alternative medical practitioner and now strictly offers nutritional consultations. He is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and has also published several Canadian bestselling books, including Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. To see more of Dr. Rona’s articles, visit: www.highlevelwellness.ca and for appointments, please call (905) 764-8700; office located at: 390 Steeles Ave. W., Unit 19, Thornhill, Ontario