While any disease or condition that robs you of great health is frightening, there is something about a stroke that is downright terrifying, and for good reason.
According to the American Stroke Association, more than 795,000 Americans suffer from a stroke every year, while more than 137,000 Americans die of a stroke annually, making it the fourth leading cause of death. And that’s just in the United States. The World Health Organization estimates that 6.2 million people die of a stroke each year.
And then there are the stroke survivors, many of whom are left with varying degrees of paralysis, speech impediments, memory loss, vision difficulties, and changes in behavior. These devastating costs of the disease often require long-term rehabilitation or nursing care.
Given these staggering realities, Chinese researchers set out to scan the research literature in search of a solution.
A Stroke-Protective Mineral
Working backward, to a degree, researchers reasoned that since elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, nutrients that help to reduce blood pressure might also help to protect against stroke. Specifically, they wondered if magnesium intake was associated with the development of stroke, as magnesium has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of blood pressure.
Researchers reviewed nearly 3,000 studies from 1966 to August 2011, of which they found 8 that met their inclusion criteria. There were more than 300,000 total participants between the 8 studies, and follow-up time ranged from 8 to 15 years.
In all studies, magnesium intake was determined from a food frequency questionnaire, and ranged from 228 mg to 471 mg per day, with an average of 306 mg daily.
After reviewing the studies, researchers found that there was an 11 percent statistically significant reduction in risk of stroke in those people with the highest magnesium intake. This protective effect was seen most notably in ischemic stroke versus hemorrhagic stroke.
An ischemic stroke is caused by a lack of blood flow due to a clot and accounts for 87 percent of all strokes. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and blood accumulates in and compresses around the brain tissue. These account for 13 percent of all strokes.
Finally, researchers found a slight but significant association between dose and response. This means that the more magnesium a person took, the greater the reduction in their risk for stroke.
Researchers gave two possible explanations for magnesium’s effectiveness at reducing your risk for stroke. The first is attributed to the mineral’s known ability to reduce blood pressure.
The second could be due to magnesium’s protective effect on type-2 diabetes. Specifically, a meta-analysis found that every 100 mg/day increase in magnesium was associated with a 15 percent decrease risk of type-2 diabetes.
Given this, researchers concluded, “Magnesium intake may be a modifiable dietary risk factor in stroke prevention.”
Boost Your Magnesium Intake
One of the great things about this study is that magnesium intake was based on food. What could be easier than adding a few delicious, magnesium-rich foods to your diet as an effective way to reduce your risk for stroke — and diabetes!
To reap these benefits, boost your intake of:
- Halibut (1/2 fillet = 170 mg)
- Spinach, cooked (1 cup = 157 mg)
- Pumpkin seeds (1 cup = 151 mg)
- Black beans (1 cup = 120 mg)
- Peanuts (1 ounce = 64 mg)
- Scallops (6 large = 55 mg)
- Soy milk (1 cup = 47 mg)
For a real magnesium boost, you can also supplement. Aim for 350-400 mg a day. If you’re looking for a high-quality magnesium supplement, you can click here.
 Nie ZL et al. Magnesium intake and incidence of stroke: Meta-analysis of cohort studies. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2012 Jul 10. [Epub ahead of print.]
 Jee SH et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Am J Hypertens. 2002;15:691-6.
 Jee SH et al.
 Larsson SC and Wolk A. Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. J Intern Med. 2007;262:208-14.