Stroke is the third largest killer in India. The risk factors for stroke are similar to those for heart disease - smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and inactivity - but there's an added risk: being a vegetarian.
Vegetarians are at a higher risk of stroke than others as they tend to have vitamin B12 deficiency, which raises the levels of a naturally occurring amino acid in the body called homocysteine. Homocysteine is a nerve and vessel toxin, contributing to heart disease, stroke, dementia and birth defects.
High homocysteine levels are an established risk factor for stroke. Normal levels range between 2.2 and 13.2 µmol/l. higher levels can be lowered with treatment that includes B12, B6 and folic acid supplementation.
The lifetime risk of stroke after 55 years is one in five for women and one in six for men. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the second leading cause of disability after dementia.
The risk factors for stroke are similar to that for heart disease and include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inactivity, and existing heart disease. High blood pressure is a major independent risk factor. Risk rises by 46% for every 7.5mm/Hg increase in diastolic pressure (lower reading), for example, people with a blood pressure reading above 160/90 have a four times higher risk as compared to people with normal blood pressure. Heart conditions such as leaking valves and irregular heartbeat are preventable factors in young people. In developing countries, infections and the tendency of the blood to clot are other risk factors, as is use of oral contraceptives by women.Dr Renjen is a senior consultant neurologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.