7 Superfoods that Can Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

Seven everyday foods and beverages have been found to lower the risk of stroke in large-scale population studies.

Jun. 29, 2016
By A. C. Anschuetz

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Stroke is the third-lead­ing cause of death in the United States and the lead­ing cause of long-term dis­abil­ity. A stroke occurs when a blood ves­sel car­ry­ing nutri­ents and oxy­gen to the brain is either blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke) or rup­tures (hem­or­rhagic stroke). Many lifestyle fac­tors, includ­ing nutri­tion, can affect your chances of suf­fer­ing from a brain attack.” Here are seven every­day foods and bev­er­ages that have been found to lower the risk of stroke in large-scale pop­u­la­tion stud­ies. You may be pleas­antly sur­prised by some of the items on the list.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the rich­est source of a carotenoid called lycopene. This pow­er­ful antiox­i­dant helps to reduce the for­ma­tion of plaque in the arter­ies, which can lead to strokes. In a Finnish study pub­lished in the jour­nal Neurology, 1,031 men aged 46 to 65 were given blood tests and fol­lowed up for an aver­age of 12 years. The men with the high­est lycopene lev­els in their blood were 59 per­cent less likely to have a stroke due to blood clots and 55 per­cent less likely to have any type of stroke, com­pared to those with the low­est lev­els.

Avocados

Potassium-rich foods like avo­ca­dos, sweet pota­toes, and bananas could cut the risk of strokes in post-menopausal women. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York fol­lowed 90,137 women ages 50 to 79 for an aver­age of 11 years. Women with the most potas­sium in their diet were 16 per­cent less likely to have a stroke caused by a blood clot and 12 per­cent less likely to suf­fer from a stroke in gen­eral, com­pared to the group who con­sumed the low­est amounts of potas­sium. An aver­age-size avo­cado pro­vides 28 per­cent of the rec­om­mended daily allowance of potas­sium.

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Olive Oil

Olive oil may reduce the risk of stroke by pro­tect­ing against con­di­tions such as high blood pres­sure and high cho­les­terol. Researchers at the University of Bordeaux in France asked 7,625 peo­ple 65 years and older how often they used olive oil in cook­ing or as a condi­ment. They then fol­lowed up data from the par­tic­i­pants’ med­ical records over the course of five years. Stroke risk was 41 per­cent lower in peo­ple who used olive oil reg­u­larly, com­pared to those who never used it. The researchers note that to pro­tect against stroke, olive oil should be used as an alter­na­tive to other veg­etable oils.

Fish

The omega‑3, sele­nium, vit­a­min D, and cer­tain types of pro­teins in fish could help pro­tect against stroke. An inter­na­tional analy­sis pub­lished in the jour­nal Stroke com­bined data from 15 stud­ies con­ducted in the US, Europe, China, and Japan. In total, approx­i­mately 400,000 peo­ple from 30 to 103 years old were asked how fre­quently they ate fish, then fol­lowed for up to 30 years to see who suf­fered a stroke. The peo­ple who ate the most fish were 12 per­cent less likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least. However, this ben­e­fit was not seen in those who ate more fried fish and fish sand­wiches.

Coffee

Coffee may lower stroke risk by reduc­ing inflam­ma­tion and mak­ing the cells more sen­si­tive to insulin. A Swedish study col­lected data on the cof­fee drink­ing habits of 34,670 women ages 49 to 83 and fol­lowed them up for an aver­age of 10 years. Those who drank one to five cups of cof­fee a day had a 22 per­cent to 25 per­cent lower risk for stroke, com­pared w to those who drank less than one cup of cof­fee a day on aver­age. The pro­tec­tive ben­e­fits of cof­fee were not influ­enced by stroke risk fac­tors such as smok­ing, obe­sity, and high blood pres­sure.

Chocolate

Two bars of choco­late per day might reduce your risk for car­dio­vas­cu­lar events such as heart attack and stroke. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland col­lected data on the snack­ing habits of 21,000 peo­ple dur­ing a 12-year study. They found that those who ate up to 3.5 ounces of choco­late every day had a 23 per­cent lower risk of suf­fer­ing a stroke and 25 per­cent lower risk of dying from heart dis­ease. Flavonoids and other com­pounds in choco­late may have a pro­tec­tive effect.

A Glass of Wine

Moderate alco­hol con­sump­tion may help to pre­vent the for­ma­tion of blood clots and arte­r­ial plaques. Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston ana­lyzed data from 83,578 women who were 30 to 55 years old at the start of the study. Participants pro­vided infor­ma­tion about their drink­ing habits every four years for up to 30 years. Those who con­sumed an aver­age of ½ to 1½ alco­holic drinks a day had a 17 per­cent to 21 per­cent lower risk of stroke than those who abstained. Women who con­sumed an aver­age of two to three drinks daily had a slightly decreased risk for hem­or­rhagic stroke, but an increased risk for ischemic stroke.

In addi­tion to eat­ing a healthy diet, you can fur­ther reduce your chances of hav­ing a stroke by being aware of the major risk fac­tors and mak­ing the appro­pri­ate lifestyle changes. Get your blood pres­sure checked on a reg­u­lar basis and take steps to con­trol it if nec­es­sary. If you smoke, quit. Watch your weight and aim for at least 30 min­utes of phys­i­cal activ­ity each day.

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