By Ted W. Baxter
Before I had my massive ischemic stroke back in 2005, I was already paying attention to wellness and nutrition — or so I thought. I was fit and ate a balanced diet. I exercised for mind as well as body — I was so driven back then that exercise was a must to calm down. But after the stroke, when I pieced together the events leading up to that life-changing event, I realized that I hadn’t been as careful as I could have been. For instance, we know how important hydration is to our health. But the night before the stroke I’d taken a long flight from London to Chicago and all I had to drink was a small cup of coffee. The body needs water to function — to regulate body temperature, transport nutrients, and circulate blood. By not staying adequately hydrated, I may have increased my own risk. And I may have been experiencing signs I was dehydrated without realizing what they were.
I had a long road ahead of me in terms of recovery after my stroke. But I was as committed to thriving as I had been to succeeding as a busy executive. As I began to research the best ways to support the body’s ability to regain its balance and health after a stroke, it became clear that vitamins and other nutrients play a key role. They have been shown to boost brain health, supplement your energy, promote stroke rehabilitation and improve recovery outcomes. They help the body’s organs work in tandem with each other— something especially critical after a stroke event.
If you’ve suffered from a stroke or stroke-related condition, consider these vitamins and nutrients as part of your recovery strategy:
Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is a robust nutrient often found in red meat, chicken, egg yolks, and different kinds of fish. Researchers have found that low levels of B12 can lead to cardiovascular complications, such as hypertension and diabetes — and these can lead to increased stroke risk. B12 deficiency is also associated with a type of inflammation that damages the blood vessels and can result in excess deposits that interrupt blood flow. This condition could also lead to stroke.
B12 has many benefits: it boosts brain and nerve cell functioning and development and supports the production of red blood cells and DNA, as well as the functioning of the nervous system. All of these are key factors in promoting the brain’s ability to reorganize itself and create new neural pathways — otherwise known as neuroplasticity.
Vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in (of course) oranges and other citrus fruits. But there are even better sources for it, such as papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, and strawberries. C not only promotes overall health, but it can also help lower blood pressure and maintain the health of blood vessels. But a deficiency in vitamin C can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (the type of stroke caused by a burst of artery in the brain).
Anyone with a history of hemorrhagic stroke should pay close attention to their intake of this powerful vitamin. Speak with your doctor and find out if your vitamin C levels are depleted, and how you can increase your intake of C if so. There are so many simple ways to bolster your consumption.
Vitamin D. As with B12, low Vitamin D levels have also been linked to the cardiovascular complications, such as hypertension and diabetes, that can lead to increased stroke risk. Further, the research on Vitamin D shows that it’s vital for stroke recovery, providing neuroprotective, neuromuscular, and osteoprotective benefits. A recent study found “a significant improvement in ischemic stroke outcomes after 3 months of supplementing with Vitamin D.
Other Supplements. As a stroke survivor, you want to give yourself the best chance of healing — and you also want to maintain and improve your overall health. Here’s a short list of other vitamins and supplements connected with stroke recovery:
- Vitamin B3, or niacin, helps people to recover brain function after stroke, and aids with neuroplasticity as well as boosting “good” cholesterol level for stroke survivors.
- Probiotics— the “good” bacteria that live inside your gut — serve a very important role in brain health.
- DHA— docosahexaenoic acid — is an omega-3 fatty acid that aids brain health.
- Coenzyme Q10or known as CoQ10 is good for your brain and promotes heart health. This nutrient is a powerful antioxidant provides protection from damaging free radicals associated with diseases like stroke.
Of course, there’s no one-pill-fits-all answer as far as stroke recovery, or your own individual condition. But along with energy supplementation, nutritional intervention can supplement stroke rehabilitation and improve recovery outcomes. You’ll certainly want to consult with your doctors before taking any additional supplements, and discuss how to best incorporate them into your daily routine. View them as part of a total wellness approach to your recovery, and as a choice you can make to better your outcome and boost your sense of well-being. In my experience, making a commitment to support your body and mind is an action that can only help — and increase not only your energy, but your optimism for the future.
Ted W. Baxter (MBA, Wharton), started as an auditor at Price Waterhouse, passed all four parts of the CPA exam in one take, and built a financial services consulting practice in Tokyo for Price Waterhouse, becoming partner in record time. After working in the Asia-Pacific for Price Waterhouse and as a regional financial controller for Credit Suisse First Boston, he became managing director at Citadel LLC, a premiere hedge fund and global financial institution. He retired after twenty-two years in the financial industry. In April 2005, he experienced a massive ischemic stroke. He’s now an advocate, ambassador, author, and speaker on strokes, aphasia, inspiration and motivation. He is the founder of Speech Recovery Pathways, a nonprofit organization that focuses on stroke survivors and people with aphasia. He is the author of Relentless: How A Massive Stroke Changed My Life for the Better (Greenleaf Book Group Press, July 2018). Learn more at www.tedwbaxter.com.
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