When I ask my patients what medical condition scares them more than anything else, you might think they would say cancer. But it's not. I almost always hear "stroke." Why? Stroke can leave you more incapacitated that any other medical condition. It's terribly frightening to try to move your arm, but can't. Or to try to talk, only to have it come out slurred and incomprehensible.

That means preventing stroke, not treating it, is paramount. And there's a very simple way to protect yourself! New evidence suggests a very common vitamin can significantly lower your risk.

A recent British study followed 20,649 people for an average of 9.5 years. This excellent study found that those with the highest levels of vitamin C in their blood had a whopping 42% reduction in risk. What I liked about this study is that the researchers didn't just use a subjective food survey. They actually measured their blood levels of vitamin C. So these results are highly objective.

What astounded me was the authors' interesting insight. They said that conventional cardiovascular risk factors don't explain half of the risk of stroke. Furthermore, the ability of conventional risk factors to predict your stroke risk diminishes with age. So measuring your vitamin C level is an excellent way to check your risk. Think about it. If you are in the highest quintile of vitamin C blood level, your risk goes down by 42%. That beats any conventional risk management.

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While I'm sure the vitamin C is protective, I doubt it did so alone. I suspect the higher vitamin C levels are a marker for something else. Perhaps they indicate an overall outstanding diet, lifestyle, or a higher intake of beneficial phytonutrients. The latter accompany foods naturally rich in vitamin C.

Stroke specialist Larry B. Goldstein, MD was chairman of the committee that revised the American Stroke Association's guidelines for stroke prevention in 2006.

Of course, I want you to get your nutrition from food first. I don't believe that supplements can overcome serious dietary indiscretions. You should use them to supplement an already good diet! And many people on good diets need to take 1,000 mg or more of vitamin C daily. It's perfectly safe, and can bring significant benefits.

I also recommend you have your blood levels checked, as many people need to take a lot more. Talk to your alternative-minded physician to have your blood levels checked.

Ref: AJCN, January 2008.

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