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Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease are well known, like smoking, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, and diabetes. But these things only account for about 50% of the disease risk. So where does the other 50% come from?
Some say that high blood levels of the sulfur-containing amino acid homocysteine are at least partially to blame. The body breaks homocysteine down using nutrients such as vitamin B6, folate (dietary folic acid), and vitamin B12, so low intake of any of these nutrients may cause a build-up of homocysteine levels.
Studies have yielded mixed results when it comes to B vitamins’ effects on lowering homocysteine levels and subsequent stroke risk reduction. To look at the issue further, researchers from ZhengZhou University in Henan, China, compiled the results of 14 studies including 54,913 participants who were given B vitamins. One study looked at folic acid alone, while all of the others used a combination of B vitamins. The people’s homocysteine levels were evaluated and the incidence of stroke was recorded.
“There is a known synergistic effect of (high blood levels of homocysteine) and blood pressure on vascular events, and (high blood levels of homocysteine) are known to promote hypertension,” explained the study’s authors.
There are two major types of stroke: hemorrhagic, where a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain, and ischemic, where a blockage in a blood vessel leaves part of the brain starved for oxygen. Ischemic strokes account for about 85% of all stroke events.
Besides losing weight, exercising, and controlling diabetes and high blood pressure, here are some other options for lowering stroke risk: