14 Foods That Can Cut Your Risk of Stroke
Lowering your blood pressure is the best way to protect yourself from stroke. Following these guidelines for your diet could cut your risk by 27 percent.
Eating fish three or more times a week could lower stroke risk by 6 to 12 percent, according to a Swedish study in the journal Stroke that assessed nearly 400,000 people. Researchers suggest the omega-3 fats in fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel reduce inflammation in the arteries, helping to improve blood flow and decrease the chance of blood clots. Eating more fish could also mean your diet contains less red meat and processed meats, which have more artery-clogging saturated fats. Try eating at least two eight- to 12-ounce servings of oily fish every week. Be on the lookout for these other foods that can actually help unclog your arteries.
Here's how to prevent stroke by lowering your "bad" LDL cholesterol: Warm up a steaming bowl of oatmeal! High cholesterol causes plaque to start building up in the blood vessels around the brain, upping the risk of ischemic stroke, which is the most common type. If you have multiple risks of heart disease, aim to get your LDL cholesterol lower than 100 mg/dl. Aiming for 20 grams of soluble fiber a day to get your cholesterol in check. Start your day right with a 3/4-cup serving of oatmeal, which packs in about 15 percent of your daily recommended soluble fiber. Here are the worst eating habits for your cholesterol.
Make a major dent in your daily fiber goals by dishing out black beans for lunch. Reheat a black bean burrito with ¾ cups of the beans, and you’ll already be 27 percent of the way to meeting your daily recommendation.
Sweet potatoes are one of your best bets for a fiber-rich vegetable side dish at dinner. A half-cup serving without the skin is packed with 1.8 grams of soluble fiber. Plus, sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants to help prevent plaque buildup. Watch out for these signs of stroke you might be ignoring.
Antioxidants also help blood vessels widen to keep your blood flow strong while reducing inflammation. Aim for seven to ten servings of fruits and veggies every day to help stave off stroke risk. A cup of blueberries counts as two servings toward your goal.
Turns out dairy isn’t the health destroyer you might have been told. One study by Australia's Monash University found that people who regularly drank low-fat milk had a lower risk of hypertension than those who didn’t drink milk. Another study following more than 3,100 Japanese men for 22 years found that participants who drank at least two eight-ounce glasses of milk had half the risk of stroke as those who didn’t drink their dairy. Dairy products are loaded with calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which can help lower blood pressure, so aim to get two or three servings a day. Just make sure it’s low-fat or fat-free to cut down on the saturated fat that’s linked with cardiovascular disease. Watch out for these foods cardiologists never eat.
Eating more potassium can actually lower blood pressure, even in people with hypertension. One study found that eating more potassium was connected to a 24 percent lower risk of stroke. Aim for 4,700 milligrams a day—a banana packs in 422 milligrams. Green bananas in particular can help reduce blood pressure, says Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, CDN, Preventive Cardiology Specialist. "Green unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which...improves insulin sensitivity," she told RD.com. "Insulin sensitivity improves blood sugar control, which can help assist with optimizing blood flow and reducing blood pressure." When purchasing bananas, Routhenstein recommends picking ones that are greener in color over fully ripe, browning yellow fruits.
A study published in the journal Stroke assessed data from over 14,000 people and found that eating more magnesium-rich foods can reduce stroke risk by 22 percent. Just two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds will get you about 18 percent of the way to your 500-milligram recommendation. Pumpkin itself has great health benefits too. If pumpkin seeds aren't your thing, barley, buckwheat, spinach, and black beans are other excellent sources of magnesium.
You can't go wrong with leafy greens when it comes to how to prevent stroke. Kale and Swiss chard are packed with magnesium, so eating them can help keep your heart healthy. "Magnesium acts as a vasodilator, opening up blood vessels, and protects the endothelium, the innermost layer of blood vessel walls," says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Medical Advisory Board Member at the Nutritional Magnesium Association and author of The Magnesium Miracle. "Magnesium also closes the calcium channel to excessive calcium influx, which is toxic and damaging to arteries and blood vessels." Watch out for these silent signs your arteries might be clogged.
In addition to magnesium, spinach is loaded with the B vitamin folate. A diet rich in folic acid can lower the risk of stroke in people with high blood pressure, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Try to get 200 micrograms of folate every day. Add a half-cup of cooked spinach to your morning omelet to get you a quarter of the way there. Here are some more foods that can help lower your blood pressure.
The Portfolio diet has many suggestions for how to prevent stroke, including eating a handful of almonds every day, which can help lower your cholesterol. In just one serving of the nuts, you’ll fuel your body with nine grams of monounsaturated fat to cut down bad cholesterol while upping the good kind. Almonds are also a great source of vitamin E, which could stop plaque from building up in your arteries.
Psyllium is a type of fiber made from the seeds of the Plantago ovata herb. Its husks, often sold in the form of powder or capsules, have become a popular dietary supplement thanks to their hefty dose of soluble fiber. "Soluble fiber binds to bad cholesterol and bile acids in the intestine and promotes their excretion," says Routhenstein. "This can reduce plaque formation, which helps reduce the risk of stroke." She recommends that individuals trying to watch their stroke risk take an average one to two tablespoons of psyllium per day. These are the warning signs of stroke women are likely to ignore.
"Garlic contains ajoene molecules that decrease platelet aggregation, which is excessive blood clumping that can cause blood clots and lead to stroke," says Routhenstein. Raw garlic, in particular, can help fight blood clots. Routhenstein recommends consuming about one or two garlic cloves a day. Snacking on hummus or Tzatziki dip, therefore, can be yummy ways for how to prevent stroke.
We can't wait to start preventing stroke if it means eating more chocolate! While milk chocolate is high in sugar and fats, the high amount of cacao in dark chocolate has actually been found to have some powerful stroke-fighting benefits—namely, flavonoids. A Nutrients study found that participants who ate three servings of chocolate per week saw a drop in stroke risk compared to people who didn't eat any. Before you raid the candy store, though, the study also found that, for people who ate more than three servings, there was no significant change in stroke risk. The study authors recommended eating it in moderation for maximum health benefits! Next, learn some more daily habits for how to prevent stroke and heart attack.