According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 80 percent of strokes could be prevented through healthy changes. Establishing a balanced diet can lower the likelihood of developing medical conditions that can increase risk for stroke such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
Foods to Avoid
Unhealthy diet choices contribute to poor health and the development of medical conditions that increase risk for stroke.
- Refined sugar: Refined sugar is commonly found in soda, candy and other sweets. Refined sugar increases triglycerides and decreases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat that stores calories and HDL transports excess cholesterol to the liver where it is broken down. Excessive consumption of refined sugar increases body weight and cholesterol.
- Trans fat: Trans fat is found in shortening, fried foods and pastries. Trans fat increases risk for stroke by increasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. LDL causes plaque buildup in the arteries, which may lead to heart disease.
- Saturated fat: Red or processed meat, dairy products, as well as coconut and palm oil contain saturated fat. Saturated fat contributes to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance may result in metabolic syndrome, a condition where obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes occur simultaneously.
- Sodium: Sodium is a natural ingredient, however canned, processed and fast foods contain large amounts of it. Excessive sodium leads to fluid retention and high blood pressure.
Adults are recommended to consume 25 – 35 grams of fiber per day. Fiber can be found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy.
Fruit and vegetable intake are also essential in maintaining a balanced diet. The antioxidants and phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables reduce blood pressure and inflammation by counteracting free radicals — the cell damaging molecules that form naturally in the body. Adults should consume at least four to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats can help reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides and lower risk for blood clots. Polyunsaturated fats are found in oily fish, flax seeds, walnuts and plant oils such as sunflower, safflower and grapeseed.
Other healthy habits include:
- Consuming eggs and low-fat dairy in moderation
- Choosing whole grain products
- Replacing butter with olive or avocado oil
- Incorporating nuts and seeds into snacks
- Choosing leaner forms of protein and plant-based protein options such as beans, peas and lentils
- Consuming oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, anchovies or sardines at least twice a week
Incorporating nutritious foods and limiting unhealthy ingredients can help lower stroke risk factors. Should you experience a stroke, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center is a Joint Commission Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center offering the highest level of care to quickly assess and treat patients suffering from a stroke – making each minute count.
This article was written by Jamie Mok, MS, RDN, RYT, clinical nutrition, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center.