Think you're safe from having a stroke? Think again. Strokes are near the top of the chart when it comes to cause of death, coming in at number three. Each year in America alone, around 750,000 people have a stroke. There is good news, however. Fewer people die from strokes these days than in the past thanks to fewer smokers and better management of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
What is one of the most effective ways to prevent stroke? You guessed it: a healthy diet. Eating the right foods protects you from developing diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol - all which are risk factors for stroke.
Knowing what stroke is and what foods work to prevent such a medical emergency may just save your life.
A stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels traveling to the brain ruptures or when the blood vessel becomes clogged with a blood clot. When either of these occur, oxygen is cut off to the brain cells, causing the cells to die. When brain cells die, the body parts controlled by those cells become disabled, often permanently. To keep your blood vessels strong and unclogged, it is important to eat a healthy diet.
Control High Blood Pressure
Salt causes your blood pressure to soar, as it makes the body retain fluid. High blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension) increases the likelihood of a blood vessel rupturing in the brain. Therefore, it is important to eat less salt if you're trying to ward off a stroke. Look for reduced-sodium foods and avoid using the saltshaker while eating. Cut back on salt when cooking and check nutrition labels on packaged foods. Many canned foods, frozen dinners, and packaged snacks contain high amounts of sodium. It is recommended that adults eat no more than six grams of sodium a day. It is very easy to exceed this amount - especially if you eat fast food frequently. Therefore, prepare as many meals as possible from scratch.
Salt isn't your only enemy when it comes to stroke prevention. High cholesterol causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries. This causes the blood vessels to become blocked and leads to stroke. Saturated fats and trans fats raise your blood cholesterol. These fats are found in foods such as red meat, cream, butter, ice cream, pastries, potato chips, candy bars, and a host of other packaged snack foods. To avoid these fats, eat low-fat foods, and instead of red meat, go with lean poultry, fish, beans, or legumes. Rather than whole milk, cream, and ice cream, buy nonfat or low-fat dairy alternatives.
Two examples of heart-healthy foods to lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of stroke are oily fish and olive oil. Mackerel, salmon, herring, tuna, and trout are all high in omega-3 fatty acids, which work to lower cholesterol. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that lowers the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Part of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil keeps your blood flowing freely through your body.
People who are obese have a greater risk of suffering a stroke. Excessive fatty tissue makes blood flow difficult, increases the risk of blockage, and causes your heart to work overtime, all of which can cause a stroke. To shed extra pounds, eat a healthy diet and include at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.
Include as many vegetables and fruits in your diet as possible. Five servings a day is the minimum. You know fruits and veggies are good for you, since they're full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But they have also been shown to one of the best defenses against stroke and heart disease. Broccoli, cauliflower, and citrus fruits have been proven especially beneficial.