A stroke, also called a "brain attack," can occur at any age. The good news is simple changes may significantly reduce your risk. Nutrition and exercise are two key modifiable behaviors.
The Mediterranean Diet, rich in beneficial oils, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low in cholesterol and animal fat, has been shown in studies to reduce risk of stroke and heart attack. Tea and dark chocolate were included for their beneficial antioxidant properties. For more information on the Mediterranean Diet, check the "Oldways" website, http://www.oldwayspt.org.
Eating to prevent stroke
•Maintain a healthy weight by burning as many calories as you take in.
•Eat a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables high in vitamins, minerals and fiber but low in calories. Reach for a goal of 4-5 servings per day.
•Try a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups.
•Choose unrefined whole grains containing fiber that will help you feel full. Check the Whole Grains Council website, http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org, for suggestions on increasing fiber in your diet.
•Eat fish at least twice a week with emphasis on those high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
•Choose lean meats and poultry without skin.
•Switch to fat-free, one percent and low-fat dairy products.
•Decrease intake of saturated fats from fatty meats, butter, palm oils and lard. Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and avoid trans fats.
•Increase intake of healthier monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola, avocados, olives, almonds, walnuts and other nuts.
•Aim to consume less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day.
•Cut back on beverages and foods high in added sugars.
•Try to consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day.
•Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two for men.
•Watch your portion sizes and read labels. The labels will help guide healthy choices.
Perform activities that raise your heart rate. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Walking is a good activity and can be done anywhere. Consider running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis or other team sports. If you have access to stairs, use them as a form of exercise instead of taking an elevator.
Lifestyle tips for success
•Be realistic: make one or two changes every month and stick with it.
•Be adventurous: Explore a variety of new foods.
•Be flexible: Balance what you eat with your physical activity.
•Be smart: Enjoy all foods, but don't overindulge.
•Be active: Walk your pet; don't just watch your pet walk.
Seek assistance if you wish from a registered dietitian to help make significant lifestyle changes toward healthier eating.
For more helpful information, log on to the American Stroke Association website, http://www.stroke.org, click on "Prevention" then choose "Risk Factors" and download the Stroke Risk Scorecard to see if you are at risk. Other informational sources are http://www.americanheart.org, http://www.nutrition.gov, http://www.lowsodiumliving.com.