Last month, researchers brought attention to a serious, but little-known risk factor for suffering a stroke. Very few people realize this risk factor even exists. But according to a new study, it “triggers” an astounding number of strokes a year.
When you suffer a stroke, the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain is interrupted. Obviously, a blood clot can interrupt this flow. And, believe it or not, so can disturbances to the Earth’s magnetic field.
Each year, men and women around the world suffer almost 17 million strokes. And the study’s researchers say we can attribute about half a million of these strokes to geomagnetic storms. (A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance to the Earth’s magnetic field. Most often caused by solar flares. It causes the aurora borealis, or “northern lights,” in circumpolar areas.)
This number might sound small in the grand scheme of the solar system. But this risk is comparable to some other major stroke risk factors that we do hear a lot about, such as postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Now, here’s where it gets even more interesting…
Geomagnetic activity occurs in 11-year cycles. During a year of low solar flare activity, we may only experience two or three solar storms. (Storms usually last for 2 to 3 days.)
But in a year of high solar activity, we may experience up to 50 storms. And experts say 2014 is the peak of the current 11-year cycle. They believe this high activity will result in more strokes during 2014.
How did the researchers come to this conclusion?
They analyzed stroke data for men and women who lived in Australia, France, New Zealand, Sweden and the U.K. Then, they compared the stroke data to geomagnetic activity over the past quarter-century.
They also used one of my favorite simple, but genuine research designs…where each patient serves as his or own control before the stroke occurs. Then, the researchers compared the patients’ original data to data collected after the event. So it’s a simple “before-and-after” study.
Of course, the so-called “evidence-based” medicine crowd often decries this simple clinical observation method. But this approach eliminates confounding risk factors. And it also avoids most of the fancy statistical manipulations research bureaucrats can use to modify data so the answers fit better for their purposes.
This study also used population-based data that reduced selection bias. It had minimal chances of false-positive or false-negative findings. And it had a large sample size of more than 11,000 stroke patients. (These factors eliminated the problems that typically plague other kinds of research. So the findings are real, even if unexplained, like many thing in medicine.)
So what did the researchers actually discover?
The highest risk for stroke occurred one week following a geomagnetic storm. On average, the participants had a 19 percent increase in stroke risk following a storm. That may not sound like a lot, but some subgroups had a 90 percent increase in risk following a storm. In fact, geomagnetic storms most strongly affected the stroke risk of younger people.
Plus, the more severe the storm, the higher the risk. So after a severe storm, participants in the study showed a whopping 52 percent increased risk.
The researchers suggested that geomagnetic activity may affect blood clotting, raise blood pressure, or cause irregular heartbeats. (Of course, there are drugs for all those problems.)
But there’s another explanation that also deserves a closer look.
It’s possible that geomagnetic energy and storms from the sun affect the flow of energy in the body. After all, if solar flares can shut down entire electrical grids and satellite navigation equipment…couldn’t they directly affect the human body and brain?
Indeed, all forms of energy on earth ultimately come from the sun. Many scientific studies prove energy flows throughout the body–to and from the heart, and to and from the brain, both of which are involved in strokes. In fact, entire systems of “alternative,” medicine such as acupuncture and Ayurveda, are based upon balancing this flow of energy. And “blood” and “energy” are understood to flow together.
Of course, the researchers concluded, “we need more research.” They also said we could try to protect at-risk populations through “pharmacological means.” (Ah yes, it’s a solar storm year, we’d better give everyone another statin drug!)
Captain Ahab proclaimed in Moby Dick, “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” And perhaps we can now look forward to more drugs for the frequent solar insults in 2014.
In reality, you can’t do much about solar storms. But you can look for alternative ways to keep your stroke risk low.
As I mentioned earlier, many traditional systems of medicine–such as Ayurveda–help balance your energy flow. In addition, many of the thousands of U.S. practitioners of massage therapies, bodywork and touch therapies see their work as helping balance your energy flow. These approaches might be especially useful during a period of high geomagnetic activity. Seek out guidance from one of these qualified practitioners. Visit the American College for Advancement in Medicine’s (ACAM) website to find a practitioner near you.
You can also try to decrease other risk factors for stroke. Follow a healthy, balanced diet. Get moderate exercise. Manage your blood pressure. And consume alcohol but only in moderation. It looks like 2014 would be a good year to get started on all these healthy habits, if you haven’t already. And to learn more about all the natural approaches I mentioned, subscribe to my Insiders’ Guide newsletter.
1. “Geomagnetic Storms Linked to Increased Stroke Risk,” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 4/29/2014
2.“Geomagnetic Storms Can Trigger Stroke,” Stroke (https://stroke.ahajournals.org) published online before print 4/22/2014