There's no doubts among researchers about the connection between high blood pressure and stroke. So it makes sense that to reduce high blood pressure is the best way to prevent strokes.
When your blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury), your stroke risk doubles.
And for every 20 mmHg increase in systolic pressure (the first number in your blood pressure reading) or 10 mmHg increase in diastolic pressure (the second number), your risk doubles again.
I'm sure that by now you've become familiar with the fact that a diet high in butter, bacon, burgers and processed foods puts you on a fast track to a heart attack.
But at the same time such diet increases your risk of a stroke, which is also caused by narrowed arteries - in this case blood vessels that feed the brain.
(Further Reading: Causes of Stroke)
Since the underlying problems are similar, so are the solutions - not smoking, doing more exercise, losing weight and, of course, changing your diet, all of which can help control or reduce high blood pressure, considered the leading modifiable risk factor for stroke.
Of course, as with heart disease, there are contributing factors for stroke over which you have no control, such as age, gender and race. So, it makes sense to act on the ones you can influence, doesn't it?
A massive study of thousand of women, called the Nurses Health Study, showed that eating the typical Western-style diet increased high blood pressure and stroke risk by 58%, whereas consuming more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish - the same foods that guard against so many other diseases - lowered that risk by 30%.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, which is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fibre, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, and fruits and vegetables, has been shown to decrease blood pressure by 5.5/3.0 mmHg, which is enough to cut your stroke risk by 27%.
Go a step further and reduce your sodium intake to about 2/3 teaspoon of salt per day and you can lower your pressure by 8.9/4.5 mmHg.
That's about the same reduction you can get by taking a single blood pressure medication.
Even on their own the foods that make up the DASH Diet are potent stroke fighters.
Eating plenty of whole-grain fibre lowers risk of high blood pressure and stroke by about 40% and other research shows that eating fruit and vegetables daily reduces it by 20 to 40%.
If you decide to adopt the DASH Diet, you can lower your blood pressure by another 4 points or so by getting some regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and moderating your alcohol intake.
Grains: Six to eight serving a day, such as a slice of wholemeal bread or 1/2 cup of brown rice, pasta or cereal.
Fruits and Vegetables: Fout to five servings a day, such as a piece of fruit (such as an apple or a medium banana), 1/2 cup of chopped fruit or cooked vegetables, a cup of leafy vegetables, 1/4 cup of dried fruit, or 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruit or vegetable juice.
Low-fat/fat-free dairy: Two to three servings a day, such as a cup of milk or yogurt.
Lean meat, poultry or fish: 6 oz./170 g. a day.
Nuts, seeds and legumes: Four to five servings a week, such as 1/2 cup of beans, 1/3 cup of nuts ot 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
Sweet and added sugars: Kept to the very minimum or less than five servings a week, such as a tablespoon of sugar or jam or 1/2 cup of sorbet.
Considering how high blood pressure and stroke are so intrinsically linked, have a look at the other related articles which will discuss which healing foods can help you lower your blood pressure and prevent strokes and heart disease.
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