Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I certainly have a bit of a false sense of security because my cholesterol is so good. Below is from the newsletter from Dr. Joel Fuhrman:

Dr. Fuhrman

Strokes are the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and the third leading cause of death. Almost 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year. Although strokes are usually perceived as a condition that afflicts older Americans, they occur in people of all ages. About 25% of strokes occur in people under the age of 65, and 10-15% occur in those under age 45.1

Last week, at the age of 41, Beau Biden, Delaware Attorney General and son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, suffered what is being called a mild stroke. Joe Biden himself suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke due to a ruptured brain aneurysm in 1985 at the age of 45.2

Bret Michaels, of the band Poison and a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, recently suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (a type of hemorrhagic stroke) at age 47. He was released last week to a rehabilitation facility.3

Simply eating a vegetarian or vegan diet does not preclude you from heading down a path to suffering a stroke yourself. Many vegans falsely believe that their low cholesterol levels and decreased atherosclerosis risk make them exempt from all types of cardiovascular disease. This is not always the case – they may even be at higher risk!

Everyone needs to know how to protect themselves. It is important to first understand what a stroke is and why it occurs.

What is a hemorrhagic stroke?

There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked either by a clot or atherosclerotic plaque, are most common. Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain due to the rupture of a blood vessel are less common but can be devastating. The rapid bleeding into the brain compresses the neural tissue, most often resulting in permanent damage or death.4

What makes the small blood vessels of the brain susceptible to rupture?

Hemorrhagic stroke, on average, affects younger people than ischemic stroke does, and the most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure.5 Elevated blood pressure places stress on the walls of the small delicate vessels in the brain, and is the foremost risk factor for both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.

Protect yourself from hemorrhagic stroke: Avoid salt!

High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke, and Americans have a 90% lifetime probability of having high blood pressure. The most effective way to keep blood pressure in a favorable range is to avoid excess salt.

High-salt consumption may be potentially more dangerous for vegans, vegetarians, and others who have earned low cholesterol levels by eating otherwise healthful diets. Unlike heart disease, cholesterol is not an important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke.6 In fact, low cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. A number of studies both in Japan and in the West have illustrated that fewer animal products and a low serum cholesterol were associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.7

In fact, the plaque-building process that results in atherosclerosis and premature death may in some way actually protect the fragile blood vessels in the brain from rupture due to high blood pressure. Although vegans may be able to live longer than the general population and not die from a heart attack first, a high-salt diet may dramatically increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Of course, excess sodium increases both heart attack and stroke death in all diet styles, but in vegans, a high-salt diet can be even more dangerous.

To protect against heart attacks, ischemic strokes, and hemorrhagic strokes, you must dramatically curtail salt consumption.

Excess salt is more dangerous than most people realize. In addition to high blood pressure and stroke, salt contributes to kidney disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, ulcers, and stomach cancer.  Avoiding salt is an essential component of a health-promoting, disease-preventing diet.

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