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50+: Live Better, Longer

Olive Oil Linked to Reduced Stroke Risk

More Olive Oil in Your Diet May Help Lower Risk of Stroke
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Too Early to Make Recommendations

This is one of very few studies that looks at olive oil intake and risk for neurologic diseases, including stroke, Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, of Columbia University in New York City, says in an email. “Maybe olive oil improves vascular risk factors such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, which may in turn reduce stroke risk, or it may be that olive oil is anti-inflammatory or an antioxidant.” Scarmeas writes an accompanying editorial.

“We do not know for sure, and we do not know which particular aspect of olive oil is the most relevant to stroke,” he says. “Following a 'healthy diet' emerges as an important strategy for prevention of neurological disease, but remains to be proved.”

Cathy A. Sila, MD, the George M. Humphrey II Professor of Neurology and the director of the Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center at the Neurological Institute Case Medical Center of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, says the benefits of diet and lifestyle choices in disease prevention are more important than ever, given the rising costs of health care.

She agrees with the study authors and editorialist that it is too early to make any recommendations about olive oil intake and stroke risk. She calls the findings “intriguing” but says they “do not equate a randomized clinical trial and should be used with appropriate caution in making broad recommendations.”

Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says moderate use of olive oil in cooking and on bread may help protect against stroke in people older than 65.

“Olive oil is a healthy fat and it can reduce cholesterol and inflammation, and has been shown to help reduce the incidence of heart disease,” she says. “Now, we see it may reduce stroke risk in people older than 65."

Keeping blood pressure controlled, not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet that is low in salt and rich in fruits and vegetables can also help reduce stroke risk, she says.

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