Originally Released: September 29, 1997
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Neurologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center are studying whether taking supplemental B vitamins can help prevent future strokes and heart attacks.
Men and women between the ages of 35 and 84 who have had a stroke within the past three months may be eligible to participate in the project, which is going on at 36 hospitals in the United States and Canada.
Participants will be given a multivitamin each day, with some receiving additional B vitamins.
"In strokes caused by a blood clot in the brain, we think an increased risk factor may be high levels of homocysteine (ho-mo-SIS'-teen), an amino acid found in the blood," says Steven J. Kittner, M.D., a stroke specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"Homocysteine may be a cause of heart disease and stroke, but our understanding of it is similar to our understanding of the role of cholesterol 15 to 20 years ago," he said. "We know that B vitamins will reduce homocysteine, but we don't know if they will also reduce the risk of recurrent strokes, and that is what we are trying to find out with this project."
Kittner cautions, "It would be a serious mistake for people to take high doses of B vitamins themselves without clinical supervision. Larger than normal doses could mask or aggravate other conditions." To help prevent stroke, he says, eat a nutritious diet including fruits and vegetables, which also are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study, called the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention study, or VISP, is supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Men are more likely than women to have a stroke, and African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to have a stroke. People who have had a stroke are at increased risk of having a second stroke or developing heart disease.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the major cause of disability in adults.
People who are interested in participating in the VISP study should call 410-706-0414 for more information.
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