One of the best things you can do for stroke prevention is to eat fatty fish. In fact, the omega-3 of fatty acids in fish perform several miracles on blood that make strokes less likely to happen.
And even if a stroke occurs, the damage is likely to be much less if you have high levels of such fatty acids in your blood.
If you're eating salmon and other fatty fish to protect your heart, you're protecting yourself from strokes as well as the two conditions have very similar causes.
(Read more on the causes of heart disease).
Recent Dutch research found that men between the ages of 60 and 69 who ate fish at least once a week were only half as likely to have a stroke during the next fifteen years as those who ate no fish.
Further, a series of studies in Japan show that heavy fish eaters are less apt to die if they have a stroke.
Researchers found that residents of fishing villages who ate 9 oz./250 g. of fish daily had a 25 to 40% fewer fatal strokes than farmers who ate only 3 oz./85 g. of fish daily.
It's also well established that the marvelous omega-3 fat in fish can modify the blood, making it less prone to clotting, obviously discouraging blockage in blood vessels in the brain.
Some remarkable pioneering studies by William Lands, Ph.D., then at the University of Illinois in Chicago, showed that damage from strokes in animals was considerably less if they had previously eaten fish oils.
If you are at the age where you fear your capillaries are narrowed by plaque buildup, here is an image to treasure: When you eat fish oil, it settles in the structural membranes of your cells, including blood cells. Such cells, when full of fish oil, are less stiff, more fluid and pliable.
This means that such deformable blood cells are better able to squeeze through constricted blood vessels, supplying brain cells and heart cells with oxygen.
Such maneuverability could be lifesaving, especially as your arteries age and narrow.
Instead, eating saturated animal fat tends to make cell membranes more rigid. It's one more reason for those worried about stroke and cardiovascular disease in general to shun such fats.
Excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, as you find in vegetable oils and margarines, as well as of saturated fats found in meat, butter and other dairy products, tend to encourage production of prostaglandins and similar hormone-like messengers called leukotrines.
Of course, prostaglandins and leukotrines in proper balance perform very useful jobs in the body, commanding reactions that can promote health.
But in excess, certain types can ravage the body, causing cells to run amok and build inappropriate blood clots, constrict and dilate blood vessels on a whim, create heart spasms and send squads of antibodies to attack perfectly good tissue, setting up inflammation to ward off non-existent threats.
In other words, when they run out of hands, prostaglandins and similar cell messengers can be underlying creators of diverse disease processes.
By eating seafood, scientists believe, you inject more omega-3 marine fat into cells, where it checks the potential destruction from too much omega-6 land-type fat.
Omega-3's climb inside cell membranes, displacing the overzealous vegetable 6's and sometimes sit on prostaglandins receptor sites, blocking their errant behavior.
In fact, omega-3 fish oils are a lot like aspirin (and other anti-inflammatory agents), which is often used for stroke prevention.
Aspirin blocks enzymes that produce prostaglandins that tells blood cells to clump up into dangerous thrombi (or clots) which lead to heart disease and strokes.
Dr. Lands notes that prostaglandins and leukotrines also seem to play a part in the build-up of arterial plaque leading to strokes and vascular spasms.
And these intracellular communicators are thought to help direct cells to paste themselves against artery walls and then snag circulating cholesterol to make even bigger piles of occlusive debris and blood clots.
By interfering with all these stroke provoking processes, fatty fish may save multitudes of lives.
Eating even scant amounts of fish can ward off strokes and heart disease to a remarkable degree.
A landmark study from The Netherlands found that in one town residents who ate at least an ounce/28 g. a day of fish had a 50% lower risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes than those eating no fish.
The researchers, headed by Daan Kromhout, Ph.D., at the University of Leiden, recommended eating a mere one or two fish dishes a week to cut your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Interestingly, the researchers did not conclude that fish's protective power was exclusively due to the omega-3 fatty acids.
In fact, they noted that any type of fish, including lean fish, seemed to be effective in stroke prevention. They concluded that other unknown constituents in fish are also cardioprotective.
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If you prefer to enjoy the benefits of fish oil in supplement form, here are some supplements that I've found particularly good.
These premium oils, sourced from ecologically clean seas, undergo selective absorption of pollutants like heavy metals, dioxides and PCBs to ensure purity.
And Krill are carefully sourced and harvested from pristine Antarctic seas, low in pollutants like heavy metals and dioxins. Antarctic Krill also carries Marine Stewardship Council certification, which ensures sustainability.
A wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids, which has been shown to reduce all the risk factors leading to strokes
An extra strong garlic supplement that can help keep your arteries clean and free from clots
A wonderful antioxidant that can help prevent oxidation of cholesterol