Can Flax Help Prevent Strokes?

Posted on December 6, 2007. Filed under: Health Benefits | Tags: , , , |

By Esther Hylden RN     

    Harvest time is a busy time on our farm.  Everyone pitches in to help get our crops harvested.  Often Mark’s Uncle Mike, a retired teacher and farmer, helps by driving the combine.  However, one crisp October morning, Uncle Mike, who is 84 years old, called Grandpa Don to say that he would not be able to work that day.  He proceeded to tell Don that he thought he was having a stroke.  Interestingly, he talked first about farming, and then about the stroke.   Since Uncle Mike lives alone on a neighboring farm, upon hearing of a possible stroke, Mark rushed over to help him.  When he arrived, he found the house empty.  Uncle Mike had driven himself to the hospital!  As it turned out, the stroke was mild.  Uncle Mike was back combining in about ten days.  This example from our personal lives has led me to gather information on stroke that I hope will be helpful to all of you.   

    The first question is what are the signs of a stroke?                                            

Stroke Warning Signs

A stroke is a medical emergency.  Every second counts, because time lost is a brain lost!  Here are the warning signs:
*Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
*Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
*Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
*Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
*Sudden, severe headache with no known cause. 

If you or someone you know has one or more of these signs, don’t delay!  Call 9-1-1 and get to your nearest hospital.  Take note of when the signs started, as a clot-busting drug given within three hours of the start of the symptoms can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.    

   Finally, and perhaps most importantly, can including flax in your diet help prevent a stroke?                                         

   Flax is rich in fiber and the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) .  Both of these are known to have important beneficial properties in fighting heart disease and stroke.  A study was conducted at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco, California. Using data from an earlier research program called MRFIT (short for Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial), this study focused on factors contributing to reducing the risk of strokes in men.  Researchers discovered that middle-aged men who had elevated levels of ALA in their blood enjoyed a 37% reduction in the incidence of strokes.  As flax is high in ALA content, taking it on a daily basis clearly is beneficial in helping to prevent a stroke.    

   During this Christmas Season, take time to eat healthy foods, exercise, and enjoy your friends and family.  Take time to visit an elderly friend, neighbor or relative who may be spending Christmas alone this year…maybe that hour will be the best part of the Season.                                  

Have a Blessed Christmas,                                      

Esther Hylden RN  

References:American Stroke Association “Learn and Live.”Flax Your Way to Better Health by Jane Reinhardt-Martin, RD,LD

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