Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Downhill from Here

"I have discovered a cure that starts within 30 minutes for migraine headaches." That compelling comment comes from a reader named Menken who has posted her migraine therapy in an article titled "Headaches/Migraine." Menken writes: "I juice up a bunch of celery and take 2 oz of juice whenever I feel a migraine coming on. Then I lay down and within 30 minutes my migraine starts going away most of the time." If her migraine doesn't go away, step two in Menken's regimen calls for another helping of celery juice, this time doubled to four ounces. The result? "I have never had to take a third dose." Besides the fact that this natural treatment seems to work wonders for Menken, her comments also serve as a sobering reminder of just how debilitating migraines can be. In her posting she mentions details such as having three migraines in four days, flashes of light in her field of vision, and one migraine so intense that she couldn't lie down. People who have migraines like Menken's know only too well how challenging the condition is. To make matters worse, a recent study has confirmed an association between migraine and elevated stroke risk. And researchers found this risk to be considerably higher if a migraine patient happens to be taking a widely used drug. An international research team headed up by Royal Victoria and Vancouver Hospitals in Canada conducted a review of 14 individual studies to investigate a possible link between migraine and an increased risk of ischemic stroke. This type of stroke is caused by blood clots that obstruct blood flow to the brain. As reported in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers assessed three cohort studies and 11 case-controlled studies. An analysis of the combined results indicated that patients with migraines are more than twice as likely to have an ischemic stroke compared to people who don't get migraines. The risk is slightly higher for those who experience aura (such as Menken's flash of lights), and slightly lower for those who have migraine without aura. More troubling was the finding that women with migraine who use oral contraceptives have a sharply increased risk of ischemic stroke. Their risk may be as much as eight times greater than women without migraine. One of the researchers - Ali Samii, M.D. - told Reuters Health that the study clearly indicates that, "migraine may be an independent risk factor for stroke." Dr. Samii notes that the reduced blood flow to the brain that accompanies migraines probably plays a role in triggering strokes. In previous alerts I've told you about natural agents that have been shown to reduce the frequency of severe migraines. In one, German researchers demonstrated that a 400 mg daily dose of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) may cut migraine frequency in half. And in another, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) was also shown to halve the frequency of migraines by promoting respiration in the powerhouses of the cell: the mitochondria. Reduction of migraine frequency may not play a role in reducing ischemic stroke risk, but it certainly couldn't hurt. And migraine patients might also get additional stroke protection by increasing their intake of folate and vitamin C. In one alert, I told you about a Tulane University study that showed how 300 mcg of folate per day may reduce stroke risk by as much as 20 percent. And in another, Finland researchers concluded that people who have the highest intake of vitamin C are much less likely to experience a stroke compared to those who have low C intakes. As I've mentioned in those previous alerts, it's absolutely essential to quickly get medical attention at the first warning signs of a stroke. Quick action can reduce the long-term effects of the stroke and may even save the victim's life. In addition to migraines, other health issues that increase stroke risk include heart attack (especially if you're 75 or older), hypertension, diabetes, or peripheral vascular disease. A stroke can sometimes be forming for several days before the first symptoms occur, so if you or a loved one is in a high-risk group, learn these warning signs of stroke and be prepared to act immediately if any of them appear:
*Weakness or numbness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
*Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
*Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
*Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
*Severe headache with no known cause
If you notice any of these signs, call for help immediately. Some stroke procedures can only be performed within the first hours after a stroke. In the event of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or "mini stroke," the symptoms will pass quickly. But more than one-third of those who suffer a TIA will later have an ischemic stroke.


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