If you've suffered a stroke I'm sure you wish you'd gone on
an anti stroke diet when you had the opportunity. Or if your family has a history of strokes, don't wait until that unfortunate experience happens to you before you benefits from the information in this article.
One of the most frightening things about stroke is how suddenly it can strike, often without any warning.
It's true that even then it's not too late to lessen the effects of a stroke to a certain extent by adopting the right diet, but there's no way you can reverse all the damage done. Don't you agree that it's SOOOO much better if you could prevent the problem altogether?!
(Have a look at the article on the effects of stroke on the body and what causes it).
Even if the stroke itself comes out of the blue, the problems that cause it can be years in the making.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and metabolic syndrome are all risk factors in causing stroke - and they're all factors that can be reduced significantly by choosing the right foods.
"Your diet plays a critical role in preventing stroke", says Thomas A. Pearson, MD, Ph.D, professor of epidemiology and chairman of the department of community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester in New York.
In a study of more than 87,000 nurses, for example, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate the most fruits and vegetables were 40% less likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least.
In another study, this one conducted at the University of California, San Diego, researchers discovered that people who ate a single serving of potassium-rich fruits or vegetables a day were also able to cut their risk of stroke by 40%.
An Anti Stroke Diet could have a tremendous effect on your blood pressure as well.
A blood pressure over 135/85 doubles your risk for a stroke. How is that possible?
When arteries in the brain are pummeled by high-speed blood flow, they become thicker and ultimately squeeze shut.
Under pressure, small arteries may rupture. High blood pressure also increases the risk of developing clot-producing plaque in the artery walls.
If everyone with high blood pressure in the United States brought it under control, more than 300,000 strokes annually could be prevented.
Low-fat dairy products - In one large study, researchers from the Honolulu Heart Program found that men who didn't drink milk were twice as likely to have a stroke as those who drank at least 16 oz./450 g. daily.
People who took calcium supplements without accompanying dairy foods didn't show the same benefits. So other nutrients in milk appeared to be protective against high blood pressure and strokes.
But make sure to go for low-fat or fat-free milk or dairy products, since the saturated fat in whole milk may offset its benefits.
Potassium-rich foods - Not only potassium fight high blood pressure, it also appears to make blood less likely to clot, which can reduce the risk of stroke even more.Further Reading: Foods Rich in Potassium
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of prediabetic conditions including insulin resistance - which occurs when your cells stop responding quickly to insulin's command to absorb blood sugar - plus slightly high blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides, plus low levels of good HDL cholesterol.
Nearly everyone with this condition is overweight.
Having metabolic syndrome doubles the risk of stroke and gives people suffering from it (and there's millions) a very good reason to adopt the Anti Stroke Diet.
How to reverse it? Eating high-fibre, low-sugar foods, lean protein, good fats such as nuts, fatty cold-water fish (or fish oil capsules) and flaxseed.
Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grain products low on the glycemic index (a ranking system based on how foods affects your blood sugar levels) also keeps blood sugar and insulin levels lower.
This can cut cravings and help you lose weight and can almost instantly make cells throughout your body more sensitive to insulin's signals.
Foods to avoid: doughnuts and sugar-laden foods, sugary soft drinks and white bread, which send sugar levels soaring very fast.
Foods to include: most whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, which digest more slowly and so release sugar into the blood stream more slowly.
You can also slow the rise in blood sugar after a meal by combining a high-fibre or high-protein food with a refined carbohydrate, if you must have it. Like, for example, have some navy beans with instant rice.
Further Reading: Glycemic Index of Foods and How to Use it To Your Advantage
Not only what you eat but how much you eat can play a role in stroke prevention.
Being overweight raises a woman's stroke risk by 75%. Obesity raises it by 100%.
When Harvard University researchers compared body weight and stroke risk in 116,759 nurses, they found that overweight women were two to four times more likely to have high blood pressure, the leading cause of stroke, as well as diabetes and high cholesterol, all risks of stroke.
Adopting the Anti Stroke Diet will help you shed unwanted weight and lower the risk of stroke as well as benefiting you in many other ways.
Having diabetes makes a woman's risk for stroke two to four times higher than normal.
An even more potent threat for women than for men, diabetes seems to increase women's stroke odds by raising their blood pressure and boosting the likelihood of brain-threatening blood clots.
What's the best food strategy to include in your Anti Stroke Diet?
Keep diabetes under control by choosing "good", "slow", complex carbs like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
These keep blood sugar lower and steadier and help control levels of insulin in your body.
Experts suspects that surges of insulin after a meal heavy in refined carbs contribute to biochemical changes in the body that promote high blood pressure and blood clot formation - two big stroke risks.
Further Reading: Slow Carbs vs. Fast Carbs
Both high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol raise stroke risk.
A lack of good HDL leaves your body unable to carry away the bad-guy LDL, giving it free rein to lodge inside the lining of the artery walls and start the process that leads to clogged arteries.
So your Anti Stroke Diet must include much less saturated fat and more good fats. Choosing olive and canola oil over other fats for cooking, and snacking on a small handful of walnuts can help maintain healthy HDL levels and reduce LDL levels. (Adding exercise will help considerably).
At the same time, skip full-fat milk, cheese, sour cream and ice cream and turn down that fat-marbled meat. What you don't eat can be just as important as what you do, adds Dr. Pearson.
Research has shown, for example, that people getting the most fat in their diets - especially the saturated fat in meats and other animal foods - are much more likely to have a stroke than those eating more healthful foods.
This is because a diet that's high in saturated fat raises cholesterol levels, which is notorious for clogging arteries in the heart, but can also block blood vessels in and leading to the brain.
For most people, limiting meat servings to 3 or 4 oz./85 to 110 g. a day, using little (or no) butter, swithcing to low-fat dairy foods, and avoiding high-fat snacks is all it takes to keep cholesterol at healthy levels.
If your cholesterol is already high you need to be even more careful regarding the types of fats you choose to eat. Keep to the Anti Stroke Diet and your cholesterol levels will improve as well.
Further Reading: Causes of High Cholesterol and How Foods Affect It
To be really effective, the Anti Stroke Diet has to include lots of fruits and vegetables.
When researchers from the well-known Framinham Heart Study group scrutinized the diets of more than 830 men, they found that for every three serving of fruits and vegetables people ate every day, their risk of stroke declined 22%.
For one thing, they're a rich source of dietary fibre, which has been shown to lower cholesterol.
For another, they contain powerful antioxidants that prevent cholesterol from being oxidized and damage the artery walls.
Further Reading: Stroke Prevention with Fruits and Vegetables
Along with fruits and vegetables, tea (especially green but black as well) is an excellent source of flavonoids and should be included in your Anti Stroke Diet.
When Dr. Michael Hertog, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection in Netherlands, studied more than 550 men ages 50 to 69, he found that those who got most of their flavonoids from tea were able to reduce their risk of stroke by 73%, compared with those who got the least of these healthful compounds.
He found that those who drink at least 5 cups of tea daily can reduce their stroke risk by more than 2/3, compared with those who drink less than 3 cups a day.
One explanation for the anti-stroke activity of green tea may be the high concentration of antioxidants, which might protect blood vessels from damage.
One study found green tea chemicals even stronger in antioxidant effect than vitamin E and C, well known for their potent antioxidant powers.
Further Reading: Health Benefits of Green Tea
Light to moderate drinking could help save you from a stroke, but heavy drinking may bring on a stroke, according to new evidence.
British researchers recently documented that those consuming a drink or two a day were only 60 to 70% as vulnerable as non-drinkers to either a haemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke or clot-induced stroke.
On the other hand, heavy drinkers - three to four drinks a day - were three times more prone to strokes than non-drinkers.
Even worse, a University of Helsinki study found heavy drinkers six times more susceptible to strokes!
Alcohol, the Finnish neurologists remind us, is a brain poison, and in heavy doses promotes brain embolisms, clots and ischaemia due to blood changes and contraction of blood vessels - all preludes to strokes.
The Finns also found that moderate drinkers were only 6% as likely to suffer strokes as non-drinkers!
Bottom line: A drink or two a day, if you already drink, may be included in the Anti Stroke Diet, but it's not a good idea to take up drinking to avert strokes if you don't already drink.
If you are a heavy drinker, do cut back, for few events are more tragic than a stroke!!!
Further Reading: Wine for Heart Disease
Even if salt doesn't raise everyone's blood pressure, it may nevertheless damage brain tissue, helping induce mini strokes, says Dr. Louis Tobian Jr., University of Minnesota's hypertension expert.
He came to this conclusion after tests in which he fed rats either a high-salt or low-salt diet.
The high-salt diet induced deadly strokes in the animals even though it didn't raise their blood pressure.
Within 15 weeks, an astounding 100% of the high-salt-fed animals were dead, compared with only 12% of the low-salt animals.
The brains of the dead rats on the high-salt diets revealed injured arteries and dead tissue, caused by a series of fatal mini strokes.
Dr. Tobian advises cutting back on salt to avoid stroke even if salt doesn't boost your blood pressure.
This is especially critical for people over age 65 and all African-Americans, two groups especially vulnerable to salt's damage, he says.
So, to recap, if you're worried about strokes follow this Anti Stroke Diet:
For further reading click on NEXT to go on the next article of the series of healing foods for stroke prevention or choose one articles from the list below.
Articles in This Series:
A wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids, which has been shown to reduce all the risk factors leading to strokes
An extra strong garlic supplement that can help keep your arteries clean and free from clots
A wonderful antioxidant that can help prevent oxidation of cholesterol