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Eating right can lower your stroke risk: a heart-healthy diet can protect your brain by combating the major risk factors for stroke: high blood pressure and elevated lipid levels.

Increase your consumption of healthy foods, and you'll decrease your chances of having a stroke. That's the take-home message from research that shows that eating the right foods may be as effective as some medications in preventing stroke among adults with pre-hypertension (systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg, and diastolic of 80-89 mm Hg) or mild hypertension (blood pressure that is consistently above 140/90 mm Hg).

The effects on blood pressure of whole dietary patterns as opposed to individual nutrients were demonstrated in ground-breaking 1997 research known as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) study. Scientists supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found blood pressure levels fell significantly among people with mild hypertension or pre-hypertension who switched from a traditional American diet to a diet with reduced quantities of total fat (27 percent of calories) and saturated fat, plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains and nuts.

A second study published in 2000 found that people who restrict their sodium intake while following the healthy DASH diet reduce blood pressure even more.

BONUS FOODS

Certain foods seem to offer special protection from stroke.

Folic acid--a nutrient found in enriched grains, dark leafy greens, legumes (lentils , chickpeas, etc.) papaya, peas, asparagus and nuts--acts to ring down high homocysteine levels associated with increased risk for stroke.

Research suggests that diets high in fiber, magnesium and potassium may reduce stroke risk by as much as 38 percent. Good sources of magnesium are seafoods, dry beans, whole grains and nuts. Potassium is found in bananas, dried fruits, molasses, cereals, nuts, and raw vegetables. Get your fiber from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Other research suggests that eating small amounts of dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function in people with high blood pressure. Drinking milk seems to be beneficial, too: In one 28-year study of 400,000 adults, those who drank the most milk had a 17 percent lower chance of stroke than those who drank little or no milk. Other work suggests that people with high calcium intake are better able to recover from stroke.
                      THE DASH DIET

FOOD GROUPS                       EXAMPLES

Whole-grain products              bread, cereal, crackers, pasta,
                                  rice, popcorn

vegetables                        Tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli,
                                  carrots, green beans

Fruits                            Apricots, bananas, oranges,
                                  peaches, strawberries, etc.

Lowfat or fat-free dairy foods    Skim or 1% milk, lowfat/fat-free
                                  yogurt, lowfat/fat-free cheese

Meats, poultry, fish              various types--lean, fat
                                  trimmed, poultry skin removed

Nuts, seeds, dry beans            Almonds, peanuts, navy beans,
                                  lentils, sunflower seeds

Fats and oils                     Soft margarine, lowfat mayonnaise,
                                  olive and canola oil

Sweets                            Syrup, sugar, jelly, hard candies,
                                  soda, ices--low in fat

FOOD GROUPS                       SERVING SIZE

Whole-grain products              1 oz dry cereal, 1 slice bread, 1/2
                                  cup cooked pasta/rice

vegetables                        1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked
                                  veg., 6 oz vegetable juice

Fruits                            1/4 cup dried, 1/2 cup prepared
                                  or 1 med. whole fruit, 6 oz juice

Lowfat or fat-free dairy foods    8 oz milk, 1 cup yogurt, 1 1/2 oz
                                  cheese

Meats, poultry, fish              3 oz cooked meats, poultry or
                                  fish, baked, broiled or roasted

Nuts, seeds, dry beans            1/3 cup nuts, 1 Tbsp or 1/2 oz
                                  seeds, 1/2 cup cooked beans

Fats and oils                     1 tsp soft marg. or veg. oil, 2
                                  Tbsp light mayo or salad dressi

Sweets                            1 Tbsp sugar, jelly or jam, 1/2 oz
                                  jelly beans, 8 oz lemonade

FOOD GROUPS                       DAILY SERVINGS

Whole-grain products              7 to 8 servings a day

vegetables                        4 to 5 servings a day

Fruits                            4 to 5 servings a day

Lowfat or fat-free dairy foods    2 to 3 servings a day

Meats, poultry, fish              1 to 2 servings a day

Nuts, seeds, dry beans            4 to 5 servings a day

Fats and oils                     2 to 3 servings a day
                                  (fat-free dressing = 0 servings)

Sweets                            5 servings per week
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Publication:Mind, Mood & Memory
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:649
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