Stroke: Nutritional Considerations
steps are key to preventing a stroke:
- Reducing dietary fat and cholesterol.
Individuals with higher blood cholesterol concentrations
tend to have a higher risk of stroke. Studies show that men and
women who have high dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol–which
raise blood cholesterol concentrations–have an increased
risk of stroke.
The main food sources that contain saturated fats are animal products
(meat, dairy products, eggs) and tropical oils (palm oil, coconut
oil). Cholesterol, which is not the same as fat, is found only
in animal–derived products (meat, dairy products, and eggs). A
low–fat, vegan diet leads to the most dramatic reductions in saturated
- Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables,
and whole grains. Eating more fruits and vegetables
is associated with a reduced risk for stroke. These healthy foods
can displace high–fat, high–cholesterol animal products. Fruits
and vegetables also provide important nutrients, including carotenoids,
vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate, all of which have been associated
with reduced stroke risk in epidemiologic studies.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also provide fiber, which
is associated with lower risk for stroke and other diseases.
- Consuming less sodium and more potassium. It
is well known that sodium (that is, salt) in foods increases the
risk of hypertension, which increases the risk of stroke. Studies
have shown that lowering dietary sodium intake will decrease the
risk of having a stroke, as well as the risk of dying from a stroke.
Foods that tend to have high levels of sodium include processed
and packaged foods, some canned foods, “fast
foods,” baked goods, salty or smoked meats and fishes, and
many breakfast cereals.
In contrast, potassium is beneficial. Increasing dietary intake
of potassium lowers the risk of having a stroke and dying from
a stroke. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of potassium.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight. Maintaining
a healthy body weight reduces the risk of stroke. For weight–control
tips, meal plans, and recipes, consult How to Maintain a Healthy
- Limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one to two
alcoholic drinks daily
- A nutritionist can offer more advice
about making healthy food choices.