A stroke occurs when the supply of oxygen to an area of the brain is disrupted when either a blood vessel that supplies the brain is weakened and bursts, or a clot forms and blocks an artery that supplies the brain.
Your risk of stroke is increased by:
- High blood pressure
- Sticky blood which is more likely to clot
- Damage or furring to the arterial walls
- Weakened blood vessels
- High cholesterol, which narrows the arteries
A stroke can cause debilitating physical and psychological changes. It can also have a devastating effect on the patient’s financial situation, as although some great care tips are available, other adaptation equipment can be expensive, and the patient is unlikely to be able to work for some time. It’s not possible to completely eliminate the risk of suffering a stroke, but it is possible to significantly reduce it.
Being a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol consumption, abstaining from smoking, exercising frequently, and taking care of your overall well-being are all important factors in reducing your chances of having a stroke.
One of the easiest factors to influence is diet. By reducing the intake of some types of foods, and increasing the consumption of others, your diet can help prevent stroke. This guide tells you which dietary elements are important in stroke prevention, how they influence the risk of suffering a stroke, and which foods you should be including or avoiding.
Less Saturated Fats
A diet high in saturated fat will raise your cholesterol level and is likely to cause unhealthy weight gain, which will increase your blood pressure. Avoid sausages, fatty meats, cakes, biscuits, lard, butter, hard cheese, and anything else that contains fat that goes hard and white at room temperature.
More Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol. When cooking use olive, sunflower, or vegetable oils. Avocados, oily fish, nuts, and seeds are all rich in unsaturated fats.
Too much salt will increase your blood pressure. Some salt in your diet is important, but your daily intake should be limited to around 6g. Check the salt content for pre-packaged foods and cereals, avoid obviously salty foods such as salted peanuts and crisps, and don’t add extra salt when cooking or before eating your food.
Antioxidants are your defense against free radicals, which attack and damage the lining of your arteries. A diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables will naturally be high in antioxidants. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant and is found in carrots, butternut squash, spinach, and sweet potato among others. As beta carotene is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is best eaten with unsaturated fats.
More Soluble Fiber
This gloopy fiber binds itself to cholesterol and helps carry it away from your body through your digestive system. Oats, beans, peanuts, lentils, and fruits and vegetables, especially oranges, apricots, grapefruits, and asparagus are all rich in soluble fiber.
Allicin reduces the stickiness of blood, reducing the risk of stroke-causing blood clots. It is found in garlic and onions.
More Folic Acid
Homocysteine is a chemical found in blood, which may lead to inflammation of the arteries, causing them to narrow. Folic acid, also known as folate, helps reduce the level of homocysteine in the blood, thus reducing the risk of vascular inflammation.
Broccoli, peas, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and brown rice are all rich in folic acid, as are some fortified cereals.
Potassium can reduce the risk of stroke in two ways. Firstly potassium reduces the stickiness of the platelets in your blood, reducing the chances of a stroke-causing clot forming. Secondly, potassium can also improve the integrity of blood vessels. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, almonds, dates, and raisins.
It’s unclear how magnesium reduces the risk of stroke, but studies have shown that consuming an additional 100mg of magnesium per day, decreased the risk of ischaemic stroke by 9%, and hemorrhagic stroke by 8%. Magnesium is found in beans, cashews, almonds, cooked spinach, and oat bran cereal. When changing your diet, it is best to make small adjustments over time, as this will more likely lead to long-term change, than a short-burst of enthusiastic healthy eating.
By focusing on eating more of the foods that are helpful in stroke prevention, you will naturally eat less of the foods that are best avoided, and may help keep your weight within a healthy range.