Low-grade inflammation affects stroke severity

Low-grade inflammation affects stroke severity resulting in a poor outcome at 90 days after onset.

The prevalence of stroke is generally underestimated; not too many people think they will ever have this catastrophic, life-changing experience. Yet the Global Fact sheet says that one in four folk over the age of 25 will one day be struck down.

That is astonishing; one quarter of all adults will have a stroke. And 62% of them occur in people under 70 years of age[1].

So stroke doesn't just happen to other people. We make a grave mistake, excuse the pun, if we assume we are most unlikely ever to be touched.

Two kinds of stroke

The most common kind of stroke is known as ischemic; nearly 90%. Blood to the brain is cut off by a blockage in an artery.

Haemorrhagic strokes are less common affecting just over 10% of this tragic community. They are caused by a bleed in the brain; they are more serious.

Nearly 10% of people will die within a month; and a quarter before the year is up.

"Not only does the burden of stroke lie in the high mortality but the morbidity also results in up to 50% of survivors being chronically disabled."

- Stroke Res Treat 2018

New research now reveals that low-grade inflammation affects stroke severity. For many the permanent loss of speech or the use of an arm would be considered worse than death itself.

So what can be done to reduce the severity and likelihood of a stroke? The answer is to face up to low-grade inflammation in the body.

Two approaches

There are two direct approaches to dealing with inflammation in the body; adding and removing various lifestyle changes. Some are easier than others.

But recognising that fully one quarter of us will have this catastrophic event in our lifetimes makes it just a little easier to ring in these changes.

Adding lifestyle changes

Walking reduces blood glucoseWalking reduces blood glucose

Adding something new to our lifestyles is generally easier. There is almost no one for example who could not, faced with these frightening statistics start walking regularly. An apple a day keeps the doctor away; that too would not be difficult.

Again there are two approaches. There are those who want it nailed down; so how far must I walk every day? How many apples must I eat every week?

The honest truth is the more the merrier but there aren't too many of us who can immediately start walking 10,000 steps every day; or are willing to eat three large apples.

That would be a bridge too far. So instead just start to walk more and enjoy some fruit every single day. Those two alone would make a dramatic improvement in the low-grade inflammation that affects the severity of stroke.

Harvard University tells us for example that walking just half an hour per day lowers the risk of stroke by a massive 43%[2]; what could be easier?

Add eating just two small apples a day, or most fruit actually, 20 studies have shown would cut the risk of having a stroke by nearly a third.

Do both and you will have awesome protection against the low-grade inflammation that affects the likelihood and severity of a stroke.

Under the law

There is an old biblical concept here that might be useful. The old way was living under a strict code of the law; it's a tyranny. You shall walk 10,000 steps every day and you will eat three apples. It will not be long before your spirit rebels.

The new way is the one of grace; just walk more and enjoy some fruit, preferably most days but you decide what you can manage. You'll find it strangely liberating.

But if we stubbornly refuse to do either then those nasty statistics will kick in. Low grade inflammation affects stroke severity.

Raised blood glucose

"A high fasting plasma glucose was identified as a risk factor for early-onset cancers."

- BMJ Oncology

It is abundantly clear from the research that chronically raised blood glucose is "associated with end organ failure;" and cancer too. It causes inflammation of our blood vessels and in fact of the red corpuscles too.

It's complicated science but too much sugar in the blood results in the formation of "advanced glycation end products;" glucose molecules attach themselves to the plasma proteins. They are called AGEs and release highly-inflammatory compounds.

Walking regularly particularly after a starchy meal means that the glucose from carbs that is released into the blood stream is used up as glycogen for the muscles instead.

Apples enjoyed with a meal slow the release of food from the stomach and stimulate the pancreas to start producing insulin in anticipation of the glucose that is about to arrive in the blood stream.

Sadly commercial apples, along with strawberries, spinach and grapes are amongst the worst offenders when it comes to harmful pesticide residues. Grow your own or buy organic foods; if you can find them.

More difficult lifestyle changes

So adding exercise and healthy foods to our lifestyles is relatively easy. More difficult are the holy cows from which we budge very reluctantly; and woe betide the doctor who makes recommendations about toxic pseudo-foods and smoking.

The generally accepted definition of food is that it contains both nutrients and energy. But so much of what we find on the shelves of our grocery stores has been refined and the best parts extracted; what's more we love it. Soft cream scones, cans of cola and doughnuts slide deliciously down our throats; inevitable low-grade inflammation affects stroke severity. One in four adults will be afflicted; half will be left chronically disabled.

Life is precious

I have deliberately used religious terms like "under the law" and holy cows. The low-grade inflammation that affects stroke severity at the heart of the matter is a spiritual issue. God does not live in temples, cathedrals and mosques; rather he indwells our very lives.

When we return to treating our bodies and minds as holy places, only then will we be freed from the pale scepter of death and begin to enjoy long and fruitful lives.


What's the usefulness of all this? I would encourage you to slow down for a moment; stop and ponder these things and become mindful of how precious life is. It could all so easily be snatched away long before your time.

Low-grade inflammation affects stroke severity; we both could be next.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference."

- Robert Frost

Low-grade inflammation affects stroke severity

The research is overwhelmingly conclusive; low-grade inflammation affects stroke severity.

"Inflammation, both systemic and local, plays a key role in the pathogenesis of stroke."

- BMC Neurology

They found that those with a high "low-grade inflammation" score were ten times more likely to die or be severely disabled from a stroke[3].

Do you have high blood pressure? Are you aching in many muscles and joints? Have you been diagnosed with one of the autoimmune or cardiovascular diseases? These are signs of inflammation in the body.

The so-called "chronic degenerative diseases" like diabetes, heart conditions and cancer kill far more people that viruses and bacteria. Low grade inflammation lies at the heart of them all.

To do

What to do is both immensely complex and extraordinarily simple.

Complex because there are many things we could and perhaps should do; simple because getting more exercise and returning to the anti-inflammatory foods that our great grandparents once ate is so easy.

Adding a green and yellow salad daily to the menu would not only help reduce low-grade inflammation but would also minimise the risk of macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma[4]; use olive oil and fresh lemon juice to bring out the flavour.

Seed oils in commercial salad dressing raise the spectre of inflammation; they have too much omega-6.

Adding more coloured foods to one's platter is also remarkably simple. Under the law one should have at least seven; and make sure there is a full cup of this and a tablespoon of that.

Under grace just enjoy more coloured foods and don't fuss if you have had sufficient spinach, seeds or nuts for them to qualify.

Respect your doctor

Doctors come in for a lot of stick because they don't address these pressing issues with their patients. That may lead to angry confrontations and then the sick vote with their feet; and go elsewhere.

If your doctor gently chides you because of your weight, smoking or some other ticklish issue, respect him or her; they do it because they care. It's so much easier to look the other way.

I am at the happy stage in life where I no longer need my patients; if they choose to go elsewhere, so be it. If I can save just one out of ten from the low-grade inflammation that affects stroke severity, and lose nine it does not unduly distress me.

"Those who will not hear, must feel."

- Dutch proverb

Nuts and seeds have an important place amongst the anti-inflammatory foods.

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