Cerebral vascular insufficiency refers to decreased blood supply to the brain. It is extremely common among the elderly in developed countries due to the high prevalence of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The artery affected in most cases is the carotid artery. A pair of carotid arteries—one on each side of the neck running parallel to the jugular vein—are the main arteries that supply blood to the brain.
Typically, cerebral vascular insufficiency develops at the carotid bifurcation—the splitting of the carotid artery into the internal (supplying the brain) and external (supplying the face and scalp) branches. This bifurcation is similar to a stream splitting into two branches. At the bifurcation, just like at a split in a stream, debris and sediment accumulates. Significant symptoms begin to appear in most cases only when the blockage of the artery has reached 90 percent. This situation is similar to what occurs in angina.
Symptoms of cerebral vascular insufficiency are caused by reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. Severe disruption of blood and oxygen supply results in a stroke. The official definition of a stroke is “loss of nerve function for at least 24 hours due to lack of oxygen.” Some strokes are quite mild; others can leave a person paralyzed, in a coma or unable to talk, depending on which part of the brain is affected. Smaller “mini-strokes,” or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), may result in loss of nerve function for an hour or more, but less than 24 hours. TIAs may produce transient symptoms of cerebral vascular insufficiency: dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, confusion and so on.
What Causes Cerebral Vascular Insufficiency?
In most cases, cerebral vascular insufficiency is a consequence of atherosclerosis.
What Dietary Factors are Important in Cerebral Vascular Insufficiency?
The dietary factors for atherosclerosis also apply to cerebral vascular insufficiency. I recommend a diet that includes the following:
- An abundance of plant food, including fruit, vegetables, breads, pasta, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds
- Minimally processed foods, with a focus on seasonally fresh and locally grown products
- Fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, with sweets containing concentrated sugars or honey consumed a few times per week at the most
- Daily consumption of dairy products, principally cheese and yogurt, in low to moderate amounts and in low-fat varieties
- Regular consumption of fish
- Moderate consumption of poultry and eggs—about one to four times weekly—or not at all
- Small, infrequent amounts of red meat
- Olive oil as the principal source of fat
- Wine in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals
The two components of the Mediterranean diet that have received a lot of attention are red wine and olive oil. Red wine is thought to be responsible for the “French paradox,” a term used to explain why the French consume more saturated fat than Americans, yet have a lower incidence of heart disease. This is thought to be the result of the flavonoids in red wine, which protect against oxidative damage to the arteries from LDL (bad) cholesterol.
In addition to oleic acid—a heart-protective monounsaturated fatty acid—olive oil also contains several antioxidant agents that prevent circulating LDL cholesterol from becoming damaged and then subsequently damaging the arteries. Olive oil lowers amounts of LDL cholesterol and increases the level of protective HDL cholesterol. It has also been proven to reduce elevated blood triglycerides (another risk factor for heart disease), though it is not as effective as fish oils.
Which Nutritional Supplements Should I Take for Cerebral Vascular Insufficiency?
Foundation Supplements. There are three products from Natural Factors that I think are critical in supporting good health:
- MultiStart: Age- and gender-specific multiple vitamin and mineral formulas. Follow label instructions for dosages.
- Enriching Greens: A great-tasting “greens drink” containing highly concentrated greens like chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass juice and barley grass juice, along with herbal extracts. Take one serving (1 tablespoon) in 8 ounces of water daily.
- RxOmega-3 Factors: A true pharmaceutical-grade fish-oil supplement. Take two capsules daily.
Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) has been the subject of more than 40 double-blind studies on the treatment of cerebral vascular insufficiency. In these well-designed studies, GBE has produced a statistically significant regression of the major symptoms of cerebral vascular insufficiency and impaired mental performance. The recommended dosage is 240 to 320 mg per day (can be taken all at once) GBE standardized to contain 24 percent ginkgo flavonglycosides. There has been concern over the use of GBE in patients also taking the anticoagulant drug Coumadin. Although quite rare, there may be a possible interaction that could lead to excessive bleeding or hemorrhage. Use GBE with caution if you’re taking Coumadin.
Zymactive from Natural Factors contains serratia peptidase, the proteolytic enzyme referred to as the “miracle enzyme” by Dr. Hans Neipper for its ability to help improve cerebral blood flow by reducing atherosclerotic plaque in the carotid arteries. Take two tablets of the high-potency version two to three times daily on an empty stomach.
Anyone who experiences signs and symptoms of cerebral vascular insufficiency should consult a physician immediately for proper evaluation. The modern evaluation of blood flow to the brain involves the use of ultrasound techniques. These techniques use sound waves to determine the rate of blood flow and the degree of blockage.
If you have symptoms of severe cerebral vascular insufficiency, including frequent TIAs or a past stroke, along with severe (greater than 70 percent) blockage of the carotid artery, then carotid endarterectomy may be appropriate. However, before you elect to proceed with this surgery, I highly recommend that you consult a qualified EDTA chelation specialist. (For a discussion of EDTA, see angina.) For information on locating an EDTA chelation specialist, contact The American College of Advancement in Medicine (ACAM); 23121 Verdugo Drive, Suite 204, Laguna Hills, CA 92653; 800-532-3688; www.acam.org.
How Do I Know if the Recommendations are Working?
Improvements in the symptoms of cerebral vascular insufficiency should be apparent within two to three months. Blood flow measurements via ultrasound should also show improvements.