Vitamin C’s Role in Stroke Prevention

Did You Know…that vitamin C may be linked to a reduced risk for stroke?

Every year, 130,000 Americans die of strokes.  Strokes are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, killing 130,000 Americans each year, and affecting 795,000 annually.  Many who survive are left to deal with complications such as paralysis, the inability to talk or swallow, and a compromised memory coupled with severe physical and emotional pain.

That’s why the findings from a groundbreaking new study could offer great hope. This exciting study—which will be presented at the 66th annual American Academy of Neurology conference this month—suggests a link between low vitamin C and an increased risk for stroke. That provides some serious motivation to eat those vitamin-C-rich fruit and vegetables every day!

Stroke Risks 

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

  • Ischemic is the most common and occurs when a blood vessel blockage keeps blood from reaching one or more parts of the brain.
  • Hemmorrhagic stroke is much more rare—occurring approximately 15% of the time—and is a result of a weakened blood vessel rupturing and leaking blood into and around the brain.  This type of stroke is much less common, but much more deadly.

The Vitamin C Factor 

Researchers took blood samples from 65 healthy volunteers and 65 people who had recently suffered a hemmorrhagic stroke.  They found that among more well-known risk factors, such as high blood pressure, alcohol use, and obesity, having depleted levels of vitamin C seemed to also play a role in increasing stroke risk.

     Results showed that 41% of participants had normal vitamin C levels, 45% had depleted levels, and 14% were vitamin C deficient.  (The body stores about 1500 mg of vitamin C at a time. Vitamin C deficiency symptoms begin manifesting when levels reach less than 300 mg.)

On average, those who were deficient or had depleted levels of vitamin C were the stroke victims.  A link was also established between low vitamin C levels and longer hospital stays.

Vitamin C’s role in stroke prevention might be due to its ability to foster blood vessel health and reduce blood pressure, say the researchers. Vitamin C also helps maintain the structural integrity of skin, bones, and tissue, suggesting that vitamin C may help ward off brain bleeding.

More research needs to be conducted to confirm vitamin C’s role in stroke prevention, as no direct cause-and-effect relationship was determined.  It could be that the stroke itself depleted vitamin C levels and not the other way around.  Vitamin C deficiency also suggests an overall unhealthy lifestyle, which in and of itself indicates a greater risk for a cardiovascular event.

Eat Those Oranges

While supplementing with a multivitamin containing vitamin C is added protection, experts say it’s imperative to get your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C (currently set at 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women) the old fashioned way—by eating your C straight up! Maintain healthy vitamin C levels with the following list of fruits and veggies: