Sadly, every year about 140,000 Americans die as a result of a stroke. What’s more, strokes are also the leading cause of serious long-term disability. You’ve likely heard how you can reduce your risk by controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, losing excess weight, not smoking and getting regular exercise. However, researchers have discovered five other steps that may help reduce the risk of stroke. According to the University of California, Berkeley, these new studies add to the growing evidence that a plant-based diet—with some fish and a little alcohol—is not only good for your heart, but for your brain as well.
- Pile on the Citrus
It seems women who consumed the most citrus were less likely to have an ischemic (clot-related) stroke than women who consumed the least, according to data from the well-known Nurses’ Health Study. The researchers say the study results are due to powerful compounds in citrus called flavanones, which may reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel function.
- Fall for More Apples and Pears
According to one Dutch study, folks who ate the most white-fleshed produce (at least 6 ounces a day, excluding potatoes) had half the risk of stroke over a decade, compared to those who ate the least. Like citrus, Apples and pears are rich in flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Get Enough Magnesium
A Swedish analysis found that for every 100-milligram daily increase in dietary magnesium, there was a 9 percent drop in stroke risk. (The recommended daily intake is 320 milligrams for women, 420 for men, and most people fall short.) Many studies have linked dietary magnesium to lower blood pressure and reduced cardiovascular risk, but those using supplements have had inconsistent results. To up your magnesium add lots of leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds and fish to your diet.
- Tip One, But Not Too Many
In another study, researchers found light to moderate alcohol consumption (up to one drink a day) was associated with a lower risk of all strokes in women. No benefit—and possibly increased stroke risk—was seen at higher amounts. Alcohol, in moderation, may help prevent blood clots and has a beneficial effect on cholesterol. But, as other studies have shown, high amounts can increase blood pressure and have other negative cardiovascular effects.
- Limit Trans Fat
Yet another reason to nix your junk food habit. A study of the participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study found that those who consumed the most trans fats (averaging 6 grams a day) were nearly 40 percent more likely to have an ischemic stroke than those who consumed the least (averaging 2 grams a day). Interestingly, other fats and dietary cholesterol had no effect on stroke risk. This was true even after the researchers controlled for other dietary, lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors.