About 795,000 Americans each year suffer a stroke, the third largest cause of death in the United States, according to the Internet Stroke Center. Stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted. Symptoms of stroke vary depending on the area of the brain affected. Supplements that increase brain cell regeneration after stroke could help preserve function often lost during stroke. Human studies have not yet proven that any supplemental oils after stroke can benefit patients. See your health care provider to find out if supplements would be safe for you.
Types of Stroke
Stroke occurs in three forms: the more common ischemic stroke, which affects around 87 percent of cases, hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs in 10 percent, and subarachnoid stroke, which affects 3 percent, the Internet Stroke Center reports. Clots in blood vessels to the brain cause ischemic stroke, while rupture in an artery causes hemorrhagic and subarachnoid stroke.
Ischemic stroke often occurs in people with atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque made from cholesterol and cellular debris, inside blood vessels. Clots that form at plaque sites can break loose and travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the brain. High blood pressure often causes hemorrhagic and subarachnoid stroke.
Fish oil, an essential fatty acid used to lower lipid levels, has been used in the prevention but not treatment of stroke. Essential fatty acids must be consumed in food because the body doesn't manufacture them. The brain contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, the type of oil found in fish oil. Two components, eicosapentaenoic acid, also called EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, shortened to DHA, are found in fish oil.
No studies on the value of supplemental oils for post-stroke patients have been conducted on humans as of early 2011. One study, conducted by the University of Louisiana, did test DHA on post-stroke rats. The study found that DHA given between three and five hours after induced stroke reduced the size of the infarct by 40 percent at three hours, 66 percent at four hours and 59 percent at five hours. DHA also decreased swelling in the brain, improved behavior and helped repair damaged brain tissue. Whether this approach will help people has not yet been tested.
Stroke Prevention Studies
An article in the Winter 2003 "Preventative "Cardiology," published by lead author P. Skerrett of Harvard Medical School, reported on data compiled from a number of studies, including the Nurses' Health Study. The study found that women who ate fish several times a week had a decreased risk of developing ischemic stroke but not hemorrhagic stroke. A study reported in the July 2004 "Stroke," conducted by Northwestern University, found similar results in men, according to lead author K. He.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- PubMed: Consumption of fish and Fish Oils and Decreased Risk of Stroke; P.J. Skerrett; 2003
- Springerlink: Docosahexaenoic Acid Therapy of Experimental Ischemic Stroke; Ludmila Belayev; 2010
- PubMed: Fish Consumption and Incidence of Stroke: a Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies; K. He et al; 2004
- Internet Stroke Center: Stroke Statistics