Connection Between Nutrition And Stroke Prevention

Written by on March 12, 2013 in Health - No comments | Print this page

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stroke-preventionNutrition is a critical part of overall health and longevity. Getting the right nutrients has been proven to prevent a variety of health issues. One of these being a stroke which is a life-threatening acute health issue. There has been extensive research done that looks at the link between what we eat and our risk of experiencing a stroke.

Current Outlook on How Americans Eat

Americans eat a diet with little regard to nutrients. Fast food and processed foods are easy and fit right into the average very busy American schedule. However, this often results in people just not getting the nutrients they need to prevent illnesses like a stroke.

An American adult with a low risk for stroke should be getting less than 300 mg/d of cholesterol and a person with a risk for stroke should be getting less than 200 mg/d of cholesterol. The amount of cholesterol present in foods is listed on the nutrition facts label, but many do not analyze this before eating something.

To get an idea of how quickly cholesterol can add up, a single egg yolk has 275 mg of cholesterol. An eight-ounce steak has about the same amount, so this really puts the importance of nutrition into perspective.


Looking at the Research

One study looked at the differences between the traditional American diet and the Mediterranean diet. Looking at 423 heart attack survivors, the study put some on a “prudent Western diet” and others on a Mediterranean diet from Crete.

The calories consumed were pretty much the same between both diets. However, the Mediterranean diet reduced their risk of cardiac death by 60 percent over the course of four years. It is also important to note that the alcohol consumption allowed in each diet was the same.

The Mediterranean diet was low in animal fat and cholesterol, and high in canola oil, vegetables, olive oil and fruit. Butter was also substituted for canola margarine.

This study was replicated with 1,000 other patients. This shows that diet is far more important in stroke prevention than taking a pill to attempt to override a bad diet.

Another study looked at the overall quality of a person’s diet and how they balance energy expenditure and energy intake and compared it to individual foods and nutrients. Ultimately, it was determined that a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet have a much bigger impact on preventing a stroke than B-vitamins or antioxidant vitamins did.

The Health Professionals’ Follow-Up and the Nurses’ Health Study concluded that a lower stroke risk was associated with a diet high in vegetables, fiber and fruits, and low in red meat and fat.

The Women’s Health Study concluded that an increased risk of stroke over 10 years was associated with a diet that included high fiber, high omega-3 and high folate combined with a low intake of bad fats. So, as you can see, diet is more important that vitamins in determining stroke risk as the above study concluded.

This is not to say that you should avoid vitamins because they are critical to keep the body working correctly, but you should incorporate a variety of healthful foods and not rely on vitamin content alone. A good example is red meat.

Red meat does often have quite a few nutrients like iron and B vitamins, but it is also associated with an increased risk of stroke. Because of this, you should strive to get your iron and B-vitamins from a more healthful source like dark, leafy greens and fruits.

The same study looked at malnutrition too because is can also play a role in stroke. For example, if someone eats fast food most days of the week, he or she may look healthy on the outside, but their cholesterol levels could be off the charts. This study looked at how malnutrition in childhood increased a person’s stroke risk as an adult and found – via observational studies – that there is an association that warrants further investigation.

The Bottom Line

We know that things like obesity, smoking and family history all play a role in our risk to experience a stroke. However, we need to closely analyze our diets because this could be the single biggest factor in determining whether or not we fall victim.

People need to look into their pantries and see how much processed food they have. It is also important to look at how much fast food you eat. Processed and fast foods should be a rare treat and not a part of your weekly diet. People who wish to lower their stroke risk should follow the old adage, “I eat to live, not live to eat.” Think about the things that your body truly needs before putting fork to mouth.

We need fresh foods and foods that have significant nutritional value and the Mediterranean diet pretty much nails this train of thought.

About the Author: Mike Wlaters is a health and wellness writer for Engagement Health LLC.

Image courtesy of ddpavumba / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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