Stroke prevention simplified

Just when you start to think that all of those supplements you take aren’t doing anything for you…

Along comes a study proving just how valuable they really are. Most recently, a brand new meta-analysis showed that supplementing with B vitamins can cut stroke rates significantly.

This review featured 14 trials and close to 55,000 older participants. (Ages ranged from 52 to 69 years, with follow-up periods ranging from two to eight years.) With the exception of one study on folic acid alone, all the research looked at the stroke-reducing power of supplementing with a combo of B vitamins.

Results showed a marked reduction both in levels of homocysteine–an important heart risk marker–and in overall stroke events with B supplementation. And guess what? The longer subjects took the supplements, the lower stroke risk dropped.

It’s like I’m always telling you. Consistency is key.

I run homocysteine tests on all of my patients for exactly this reason. Elevated levels usually point to both B deficiencies and higher heart risk. So these latest findings aren’t exactly surprising.

Folic acid, B6, and B12 are all critical regulators of your body’s homocysteine metabolism. That’s why I recommend a minimum starting dose of 5mg of folic acid, 100 mg of B6. and 1,000 mcg of B12 for everyone who has high homocysteine. (And a lot of people do.)

After three months, simply have your doctor repeat the homocysteine test. Ultimately, you’re shooting for a perfect score of 8. (Even though the “normal” reference range is higher.)

The other noteworthy thing this report pointed out is that people who started out with low B12 levels were at higher risk and benefited the most from supplementation.

Low B12 levels can occur from a variety of reasons. But mostly, it results from vegetarianism, excess alcohol consumption, or in the case of very specific diseases where your body can’t absorb the vitamin. (Pernicious anemia is one example.)

So, it’s probably not such a bad idea to get your B12 levels checked–although most doctors will assume it’s unnecessary and won’t want to do it. (Honestly, it’s like pulling teeth to get some mainstream practitioners to do anything.) Your baseline blood level of B12 should be above 400.

Finally, this meta-analysis also showed that B vitamins can benefit those with high blood pressure. Again, not surprising, since elevated levels of homocysteine can contribute to hypertension, too.

The bottom line: A simple, cheap supplement may be the answer to some of the leading causes of death and disability in the world. If you’re not already taking one, pick up a comprehensive B complex today.

“Vitamin B supplementation, homocysteine levels, and the risk of cerebrovascular disease: A meta-analysis.” Neurology. 2013 Sep 18.