Stroke occurs when blood flow is restricted to certain parts of the brain. Without blood, brain cells become starved of oxygen and die.
After somebody has a stroke, there is a very high risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes.
Researchers are trying to understand why some people live longer than others after having a stroke.
They found that a metabolite of vitamin A is a very good predictor of survival in the six months after a stroke.
The results suggest that eating more vitamin A-rich foods may be protective for stroke survivors.
These researchers carried out human research at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, China. The journal Neurology published the results.
Vitamin A is important for the healthy function of the cardiovascular system.
We can get it from animal foods such as liver and the body can also make small amounts of vitamin A from beta carotene, which is in plant foods such as carrots.
One of the main functions of vitamin A is to produce retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is responsible for many of the benefits attributed to vitamin A.
Animal experiments show that retinoic acid can decrease the severity of a stroke.
Retinoic acid also improves recovery from stroke in lab animals.
So the researchers decided to investigate the relationship between retinoic acid and risk of death in the months after stroke.
They carried out this research at three university hospitals.
Researchers took blood tests for retinoic acid levels in over 1,500 stroke survivors.
They tracked them for six months and kept records on death and cause of death.
The researchers calculated the relationship between the levels of retinoic acid and the risk of death.
People with higher levels of retinoic acid had a lower risk of death.
The research found that the lower someone’s retinoic acid levels were, the higher the chances of dying in the six months after surviving a stroke.
People with low retinoic acid had a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or any other cause.
The results show that retinoic acid is (at the very least) a predictor of risk of death in stroke survivors.
The research is in agreement with the previous animal experiments.
A number of rat studies show that retinoic acid accelerates recovery from experimental stroke.
But this was the first study to follow up on the animal research looking at retinoic acid and stroke risk factors in humans.
Another human study looked at levels of retinoic acid and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
That study found that people with low levels of retinoic acid were at greater risk.
The researchers called for studies looking at the effect of vitamin A or retinoic acid supplementation in stroke survivors.
In order to improve the chances of recovery from stroke, patients should be encouraged to eat a Vitamin A-rich diet and given supplements of Vitamin A.