What you eat each day can play a big role not just in weight control, but also in protecting you against stroke. So put down the potato chips and read on.
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“Food as it relates to stroke is all about prevention,” says certified nurse practitioner Susan Jaeger. “Your food choices can reduce the risk of cholesterol buildup in the arteries, and these blockages are a major cause of stroke.”
Think of it this way: Stroke is often referred to as a “brain attack” because it’s affecting your brain as a heart attack would your heart. That means a heart-healthy diet can also protect against stroke, which kills nearly 130,000 Americans every year and is the fourth leading cause of death in America.
How can you make the right food choices to stave off stroke?
1. Increase the amount of fruits and veggies in your diet
It’s a way of reducing your intake of cholesterol, “bad” fats and sodium while still filling you up. Some foods can be deceiving, though. “You may think you’re doing a healthy thing by ordering a salad at a restaurant,” says Ms. Jaeger. “But if it’s loaded with lunchmeats and cheese and ranch dressing, you’re really eating a large amount of calories, fat and salt, which can all raise your risk of stroke.
2. Avoid high-cholesterol foods like red meat, fried foods and butter
Bake, broil and steam your foods instead of frying them. Cut back on heavy cream sauces. Choose white meats like skinless chicken instead of red meat.
3. Eat foods rich in omega-3, which has been shown to help prevent stroke
It’s a polyunsaturated fat — the healthy kind of fat — that raises your level of “good” cholesterol. Find it in fish, flaxseed and omega-3 rich eggs. Omega-3 also lowers “bad cholesterol” which helps to reduce risk of stroke.
4. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
“Alcohol can raise high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke,” says Ms. Jaeger. She recommends no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
5. Cut down your salt intake
According to the American Heart Association, the average American eats about 3,000 to 3,600 mg of sodium each day. The AHA recommends no more than 1,500 mg a day. “Reduce its use in your cooking, and don’t even touch the salt shaker during your meal,” says Ms. Jaeger. “Try replacing salt with herbs in your cooking to enhance the natural flavor of the food without raising blood pressure,” she adds.