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Stroke Protection Diet

October 13, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Staying informed about the latest health care news is clearly beneficial. Knowledge is indeed power. However, information is only as valuable as your ability and/or willingness to apply it. Presently, an example is found in the field of stroke research. Several current studies point to nutritional interventions which may reduce the risk of stroke. Implementing these delicious and simple dietary approaches could significantly reduce the burden that strokes inflict on individuals, families and the health care system. The key is to find practical ways of accomplish this objective.

Strokes are sometimes referred to as “brain attacks”. They occur when blood flow is temporarily interrupted to the brain. When this absence of circulation persists for more than a few seconds, tissue damage occurs due to a lack of oxygen. Strokes are typically classified into two categories: 1) hemorrhagic stroke; 2) ischemic stroke. The ischemic variety is caused by excessive clotting that prevents blood supply from reaching the brain. On the other hand, hemorrhagic strokes are precipitated by the leak or rupture of a weakened blood vessel in the brain.

An excellent and flavorful approach to lowering stroke incidence is to adopt a low carbohydrate, Mediterranean style diet. Regular adherence to a typical Mediterranean menu plan is estimated to confer 12% protection against stroke. That said, the frequent inclusion of select foods common to the Mediterranean region such as apples, dark chocolate, fish, low-fat dairy, nuts, olive oil and red wine may provide even greater protection against both hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes.

Here’s an example of a meal that incorporates several of the foods that modern science has associated with stroke prevention:

  • Appetizer: Heirloom Tomato Slices topped w/ Fresh Burrata Cheese and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Main Course: A Fillet of Wild Salmon w/ Sauteed Broccoli or Spinach and a Glass of Red Wine
  • Dessert: A Baked Apple sprinkled w/ Chopped Nuts & Cinnamon or a piece of Dark Chocolate

Every single item on the above menu has been found to lower one or more risk factors for stroke. For instance, apple polyphenols were recently shown to stunt cholesterol oxidation, thereby keeping arteries supple. Pure cocoa supports healthier blood flow to the brain and discourages systemic inflammation, which may contribute to cardiovascular complications. And, new research contained in the journal Neurology indicates that regular tomato consumption is linked to a 59% decreased rate of “any stroke” in middle-aged men. Now, that’s powerful “medicine”! The implications of this current batch of studies is that food can, in fact, be used strategically to lower the likelihood of stroke. The question now is whether or not this research will be put to use and widely disseminated.

Click on the following links to learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column:

Study 1 - Mediterranean Style Diet and 12-Year Incidence of Cardiovascular (link)

Study 2 - Comparison of Eicosapentaenoic Acid Concentrations in Plasma(link)

Study 3 - Serum Lycopene Decreases the Risk of Stroke in Men (link)

Study 4 - Dairy Consumption and Risk of Stroke in Swedish Women and Men (link)

Study 5 - Olive Oil Consumption, Plasma Oleic Acid, and Stroke Incidence(link)

Study 6 – Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Recurrent Cardiovascular Events (link)

Study 7 – Intakes of Apples or Apple Polyphenols Decrease Plasma Values (link)

Study 8 - Dietary Protein Sources and the Risk of Stroke in Men and Women (link)

Study 9 - Effects of Cinnamon Consumption on Glycemic Status, Lipid Profile (link)

Study 10 - Cocoa, Blood Pressure, and Vascular Function (link)

Cruciferous & Green Leafy Vegetable Intake Reduce Stroke Risk

Source: JAMA. 1999;282(13):1233-1239. (link)

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6 Comments to “Stroke Protection Diet”

  1. Charlie Says:

    Stroke definitions are reversed.

  2. Alicia Says:

    It makes sense that a Mediterranean diet can help decrease incidence of stroke because of its many heart healthy effects. According to Natural Standard, the Mediterranean diet has shown a low incidence of chronic diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and may reduce heart attacks and Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been seen that people who consume a Mediterranean diet often live longer than those who do not. The Mediterranean diet also seems like an easier to follow diet than many out there, because so many delicious foods are still consumed, and are guilt free, including chocolate, olive oil, nuts, and wine. It is easy to incorporate these eating habits into every day life, just by using olive oil to cook instead of vegetable oil, natural peanut butter on toast instead of butter, and a glass of red wine with dinner! Thanks for the healthy menu options, and for spreading the word on such a delicious and healthy diet.

  3. JP Says:

    Thank you, Alicia. :-)

    I agree that the research on the Mediterranean Diet is quite strong. What’s more, the greater the adherence to the diet, the better the results. Also, making good choices, within the context of a Mediterranean-style diet, such as opting for lower glycemic foods and ingredients, tops my list of suggestions for improved cardiovascular health.



    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update: Make sure to eat plenty of potassium-rich foods!


    “The researchers found:

    Women who ate the most potassium were 12 percent less likely to suffer stroke in general and 16 percent less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than women who ate the least.

    Women who ate the most potassium were 10 percent less likely to die than those who ate the least.

    Among women who did not have hypertension (whose blood pressure was normal and they were not on any medications for high blood pressure), those who ate the most potassium had a 27 percent lower ischemic stroke risk and 21 percent reduced risk for all stroke types, compared to women who ate the least potassium in their daily diets.

    Among women with hypertension (whose blood pressure was high or they were taking drugs for high blood pressure), those who ate the most potassium had a lower risk of death, but potassium intake did not lower their stroke risk.”

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    pdate: Flax oil may protect the brain from stroke damage and possibly promote recovery …


    Nutrition Journal 2015, 14:20

    Oral consumption of α-linolenic acid increases serum BDNF levels in healthy adult humans

    Background aims Dietary omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids have remarkable impacts on the levels of DHA in the brain and retina. Low levels of DHA in plasma and blood hamper visual and neural development in children and cause dementia and cognitive decline in adults. The level of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) changes with dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake. BDNF is known for its effects on promoting neurogenesis and neuronal survival. Methods In this study, we examined the effect of the oral consumption of α-Linolenic acid (ALA) on blood levels of BDNF and Malondialdehyde (MDA) in healthy adult humans. 30 healthy volunteers, 15 men and 15 women, were selected randomly. Each individual served as his or her own control. Before consuming the Flaxseed oil capsules, 5cc blood from each individual was sampled in order to measure the plasma levels of BDNF and MDA as baseline controls. During the experiment, each individual was given 3 oral capsules of flaxseed oil, containing 500mg of alpha linolenic acid, daily for one week. Then, plasma levels of BDNF and MDA were tested. Results The plasma levels of BDNF and MDA significantly (P < 0.05) increased in individuals who received the oral capsules of ALA. Plasma levels of BDNF increased more in the women in comparison with the men. Conclusion ALA treatment could be a feasible approach to reduce size of infarcts in stroke patients. Thus, ALA could be used in adjunction with routine stroke therapies to minimize brain lesions caused by stroke.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Update: Relaxation training CD reduces post-stroke anxiety …


    Clin Rehabil March 16, 2015

    Objective: To consider relaxation as a potential treatment for anxiety in stroke survivors living in the community, including feasibility and acceptability.

    Design: Randomised two group design (intervention and control).

    Participants: All participants (n = 21) were stroke survivors living in the community who reported experiencing anxiety (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale – Anxiety Subscale ⩾ 6).

    Interventions: The intervention group were asked to listen to a self-help autogenic relaxation CD, five times a week, for at least one month. Participants completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale at screening and then monthly for three months.

    Results: At each assessment following screening, participants who received the relaxation training were significantly more likely to report reduced anxiety compared to those who had not received the training (Month 1 P = 0.002; Month 2 P < 0.001; Month 3 P = 0.001). After one month, seven of the intervention group (n = 10) had completed the relaxation training as directed and planned to continue using it. The intervention appeared practical to deliver and relatively inexpensive, with minimal adverse effects.

    Conclusions: Preliminary evidence suggests that autogenic relaxation training delivered in a self-help CD format is a feasible and acceptable intervention, and that anxiety is reduced in stroke survivors who received the intervention. Future studies should seek to recruit a larger and more heterogeneous sample of 70 participants.

    Be well!


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