Two surprising things that could increase your stroke risk

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in Canada, with approximately 50,000 Canadians suffering from a stroke every year.

Due to the high prevalence of strokes in the world population, doctors have spent considerable resources attempting to uncover lifestyle factors that could increase a person's risk.

And now, two recent studies suggest that both iron deficiency and vitamin C deficiency may increase a person's chances of experiencing a stroke.

The first study, conducted by Imperial College London, found that iron deficiency may increase ischemic stroke risk by making blood more sticky and more prone to clotting.

Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke -- and they occur when there is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain due to a blood clot. When blood platelets stick together this increases the chances of a blood clot.

Also see: Anxiety linked with increased stroke risk

"Since platelets in the blood stick together more if you are short of iron, we think this may explain why being short of iron can lead to strokes," explains researcher Dr. Claire Shovlin.

Shovlin and her team studied data on 497 patients with abnormal blood vessels in the lung. They discovered that even moderately low iron levels approximately doubled the risk of stroke compared with iron levels in the middle of the normal range.

However, the researchers are unclear about why the connection between iron deficiency and stroke exists.

"There are many additional steps from a clot blocking a blood vessel to the final stroke developing, so it is still unclear just how important sticky platelets are to the overall process," says Shovlin.

The second study looked at the connection between vitamin C and a less common type of stroke called hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when there is uncontrolled bleeding in the brain. It is considered more fatal than ischemic stroke.

Also see: Does this diet lower stroke risk?

The research presented at the American Academy of Neurology shows that people who are low in vitamin C have an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

French researchers compared 65 people who had an hemorrhagic stroke to 65 healthy people. On average, the people who had a stroke had depleted levels of vitamin C, while those who had not had a stroke had normal levels of the vitamin.

"Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as [should] high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight," says study author Dr. Stéphane Vannier from Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, France.

Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, papaya, peppers, broccoli and strawberries.

What are your go-to foods for boosting your iron and vitamin C? Share them in the comments below.