According to the American Heart Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, accounting for one out of every 19 deaths. That statistic is alarming. We hear a lot about cancer and heart disease prevention, but what about stroke? Unfortunately, it’s usually not until someone has a stroke that the topic is brought to the forefront.
In observance of May being National Stroke Awareness Month, we want to shed a little light on how you can reduce your stroke risk. It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. While some risk factors are beyond our control, like race and ethnicity, there are many we have complete control over, such as living a healthy lifestyle that includes being active, not smoking, and limiting your salt intake. But along with living a healthy lifestyle, did you know there are certain foods that can help lower your risk as well?
Try adding these foods to your diet to reduce your stroke risk!
Potassium is an important nutrient in the diet for several reasons, with one of them being helping to regulate blood pressure. High blood pressure is a top risk factor for stroke and cardiovascular disease. Studies have suggested that potassium helps to lessen the effects of salt in the body. One study found that consuming a higher intake of potassium was linked to a 24 percent risk reduction of stroke.
We all know that bananas are a great source of potassium, but several other foods pack a mighty punch of potassium, including:
Apricots – Just one cup provides 1,511 milligrams of potassium, which is equivalent to 32 percent of your daily needs.
Avocados – One cup of pureed avocado comprises about 1,116 milligrams of potassium. This translates to roughly 24 percent of your daily needs.
Potatoes – One medium-sized potato with the skin contains 950 milligrams of potassium or 27 percent of the daily value.
Potassium is a vital nutrient for brain and cardiovascular health, but it’s important to note that too much potassium can interfere with some medications. For example, if you take an ACE inhibitor to lower blood pressure, you should consult your doctor before upping your potassium intake. The interferance may cause heart complications.
Healthy Magnesium Foods
Eating magnesium-rich foods may help to reduce your stroke risk. Studies have found that for each 100 mg/day increase in magnesium, the risk for total stroke was reduced by two percent, and the risk for ischemic stroke was reduced by 2 percent. Our bodies need magnesium for strong bones, nerve impulses, and a healthy heart rhythm.
Even though it is a vital dietary mineral, many people have difficulty reaching the reference daily intake (RDI) of 400 mg. Good magnesium foods sources include:
Dark Chocolate – Very rich in magnesium, dark chocolate (70-85 percent cacao) has 64 mg per one-ounce (28-gram) serving. That’s 16 percent of the RDI. A study published in Nutrients found that consuming chocolate in moderation (≤6 servings/week) may be optimal for preventing cardiovascular disorders, including stroke.
Cashews – One of the top sources of magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health, cashews are chockfull of magnesium. A one-ounce serving of cashews contains 82 mg of magnesium or 20 percent of the RDI.
Spinach – Known to help fight inflammation, spinach is full of antioxidants, fiber, and magnesium. One cup of cooked spinach contains 157 milligrams of magnesium, which is nearly 50 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for women and 39 percent for men.
We often hear about athletes and celebrities cutting tomatoes and other nightshade plants out of their diets. They may be missing out and stripping their bodies of some significant health benefits. Past research has found that lycopene-containing foods help lower the risk of prostate and other types of cancer.
Now, researchers have concluded that there is a link between lycopene levels in the blood and stroke protection. Men between the ages of 46 and 65 with the highest lycopene concentrations were between 55 and 59 percent less likely to endure a stroke.
Lycopene is what gives foods their bold pink and red colors. Although there is no RDI for lycopene, some great sources for the antioxidant include:
Sun-dried tomatoes – One cup of sun-dried tomatoes contains about 45.9 milligrams of lycopene. Sun-dried tomatoes are basically ripe tomatoes that have lost their water. Because of this, their nutrients, as well as flavor, are concentrated.
Guava – About 100 grams of this tropical fruit contains roughly 5.2 grams of lycopene. Guava pulp has three times more lycopene than the peel.
Watermelon – One of the top fruits containing lycopene, watermelon packs 4.5 grams per 100 grams. This refreshing summer snack helps to lower blood pressure, which is a risk factor for stroke.
Eat For Stroke Prevention
Food alone cannot prevent you from having a stroke. But you can absolutely decrease your chances of having one by making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle. Adding vital vitamins and nutrients into your diet via food is an effective way to lower your stroke risk.
Prevention is key, and diet is one thing we all have complete control over. So take a proactive role and eat the right foods to lower your stroke risk.