When people think heart health, they rarely think about the health benefits of vitamin C. But vitamin C is critical to heart health—preventing coronary artery disease and strengthening the blood vessel walls. Plus, now a new study suggests that having a vitamin C level that’s too low may increase your risk factors for stroke—or, more specifically, a hemorrhagic stroke.
The primary French investigator, Dr. Stephane Vannier, announced these preliminary findings in a press release this month, and will be presenting in more detail at the American Academy of Neurology in April. Although a formal paper has yet to be published, and further inquiry to replicate these findings is needed, the early results are important in terms of possible primary prevention with simple dietary awareness and intervention.
What Is a Hemorrhagic Stroke?
There are two types of strokes. Most are ischemic in nature which are caused by a clot or plaque which blocks an artery to, or within, the brain. The remainder are hemorrhagic strokes, resulting from a blood vessel that bursts somewhere inside the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are more deadly and tougher to treat, so anything that can be done for preventing this stroke is valuable.
For the study on the health benefits of vitamin C in preventing stroke, researchers at the Pontchaillou University Hospital in France compared 65 people who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke with 65 healthy people. They tested the vitamin C levels in both groups and found that 45 percent of people had depleted levels of vitamin C, 41 percent had normal levels, and 14 percent were severely deficient in vitamin C.
When they correlated the results back to the study participants, they found that those who had a hemorrhagic stroke were more likely to have lower levels of vitamin C. Meanwhile, the healthy group had normal levels of vitamin C in their blood. This makes sense since we know that vitamin C does help to strengthen the blood vessel walls, and lowers blood pressure by promoting the production of nitric oxide (NO) which relaxes blood vessels.
Vitamin C Deficiency May Be a Risk Factor for Stroke
Dr. Vannier also suggests that based on these early findings vitamin C deficiency may be as much of a risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke as obesity, hypertension and alcohol consumption.
So, how much vitamin C should you take? I recommend taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C in the morning for preventing stroke, along with other antioxidants such as CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E and selenium, to create powerful synergistic protection. For the elderly, those with diabetes, smokers, women taking birth control pills, people susceptible to infections and those with compromised immune systems, I wouldn't hesitate to use higher dosages. If you do so, be sure to divide your doses over the day and take with meals.
A good diet to help in preventing stroke should also include ample amounts of foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as grapefruits and oranges. Other good choices include broccoli, tomatoes and strawberries.
But one population of people who should avoid getting too much vitamin C is those diagnosed with hemochromatosis, or who carry the gene for it. That's because vitamin C plays an important role in the proper utilization and absorption of iron. Too much vitamin C can bring about iron overload states in people with hemochromatosis which increases your risk for cardiovascular problems. So, I recommend that those who have this disorder limit their vitamin C intake to 100 mg a day.
For preventing stroke, I think it's also a great idea to add citrus bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids improve the strength of capillaries, and may reduce or eliminate those purple blotches you often see on the skin of elderly people, indicative of capillary fragility. As a side note, they are also good for treating hemorrhoids.
Now it’s your turn: How much vitamin C do you take a day?
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