You’re blitzed with numbers and facts in everything you read. It can be tough to make sense of any of it, so here’s a number that’s easy to understand: The environment now causes 1 out of every 4 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the number one culprit is a stroke.
That means the leading cause of death from the environment isn’t cancer, heart disease, injury, infections or other diseases. It’s strokes.
WHO completely drops the ball with its supposed tutorial “Strategies to reduce environmental disease burden.” The organization doesn’t give any advice on reducing the risk for the number one killer they just described. It oddly goes on to talk about using “cost-effective strategies” to reduce the risk from other problems that are barely related to a stroke, and which kill a tenth as many people.
We already know that lowering your blood pressure keeps stroke risk low. But you can lower stroke risk even further, especially if you have hypertension or pre-hypertension, by adding foods high in folate — vitamin B9 — to your diet.
Folate is crucial to proper brain function, the health of the blood vessels that supply your brain and B9 helps your body turn food into the fuel your brain uses to function.
Low folate is fairly common, so foods that have no nutritional value are often “fortified” with it.
Harvard research tells us that the average American gets about 100 to 150 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day from fortified grain products. But grains give you synthetic folate (folic acid), and grains also raise your blood sugar, raising your risk for metabolic syndrome, which can give you high blood pressure. That puts you right back where you started.
Also, 100 to 150 mcg is only a fraction of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of 400 mcg a day. Even if you got the full 400 mcg, it would be fine to prevent deficiency, but it’s far too little for truly good health.
Beans have the most folate. Asparagus, turnip greens and broccoli have the most among vegetables. And citrus fruits also have folate.
Your body is very good at converting this natural folate into the form necessary to cross the blood brain barrier and benefit the brain and blood vessels where strokes occur.
If you must supplement, try to get at least 800 mcg a day, and take natural folate and not “folic acid” if you can. Remember that all the B vitamins are water-soluble, so your body doesn’t store them and you must replenish often.