How to Prevent Strokes Naturally - Healthy Diets, Smart Food Choices
A major recent review has shown that the overall quality of your diet is a better predictor of the risk of stroke than individual foods and nutrients in the diet. High blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol remain among the major known risk factors for stroke. Being over weight also increases the risk of stroke, through the development of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Many of the previous links with specific foods in the diet appear to be based on unreliable evidence.
A stroke is a major trauma caused by blockages in the blood flow to the brain. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die and the damage can be permanent. There are two types of stroke - one is triggered by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The other type, referred to as hemorrhagic stroke, is triggered by a blood vessel that bursts and bleeds into the brain. Stroke is a major cause of death and disability to older people throughout the world. WHO estimated that in the period from 1990 - 2020 the rate of stroke mortality will increase about 80% in woman and 100% in men. Much of this increase has been attributed to adoption of Western lifestyles and nutrition. In Australian there have been 60,000 new and recurrent strokes in 2011, or one stroke every 10 minutes.
Symptoms of stroke are:
- A sudden weakness or numbness of the face, leg or arm (especially down one side of the body)
- Sudden onset of trouble speaking, confusion, interpretation of speech
- Sudden difficulty with vision in one or both eyes
- Dizziness, difficulty walking, loss of balance or coordination that occurs suddenly
- Sudden bout of very severe headaches with no obvious cause or history
If you have any of these symptoms, you must get to a hospital quickly to begin treatment.
The overall quality and quantity of what people eat is a better guide to risks of stroke than individual foods and nutrients. There is some evidence that stroke can be prevented by diets such as the Mediterranean and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Diets low in salt and added sugars, high in potassium also appear to be beneficial.
- Despite previous claims B Group vitamins, antioxidant vitamins and calcium did not lower the risk of stroke and may increase the risk of heart attack and death.
- Fish, coffee, fruit, chocolate and vegetables are all linked to lowering the risk of stroke.
- Salt, meat and B vitamins have been blamed for raising the risk.
A previous study tracked a total of 72,000 women for more than 12 years and showed that women who ate lots of fruits, fish, vegetables and whole grains were about 20% less likely to have a stroke than those who ate few of these foods. Women who had high consumption of refined grains, red and processed meats, sweets and desserts had about a 60% increased risk of stroke.
A 12 year study of 76,000 healthy women nurses aged 38 to 63 years showed that higher consumption of whole grain foods (about 3 servings per day) was correlated with about a 30% reduced risk of stroke, compared with women who ate less than a half serving or whole grain foods per day.
The food types in these studies coincide with the many studies that support the benefits so-called "Mediterranean Diet" which includes relatively large quantities of whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish, and fewer animal fats and red meat proteins.
Another study showed the benefits of olive oil. Researchers examined at medical history of 7,625 people older than 64 years in Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier, France. After eliminating diet and a range of other risk factors for stroke, the study showed that regularly users of olive oil for both cooking and dressings had a 40 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who used very little olive oil in their diets.
Diet checklist: Do and Don't
The Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets appears to be beneficial.
Take the following steps to improve your diet and reduce you risk of a stroke and generally feel healthier:
© 2011 Dr. John Anderson
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