Recipe for Preventing Stroke

Fruits, veggies, and exercise aid stroke prevention

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 25, 2003
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 18, 2003 -- There's more evidence: Eating right and getting regular exercise is a good stroke prevention strategy and now researchers can say this strategy can also reduce death from stroke.

Two studies on the subject appear in the Sept. 19 rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Green, Yellow Help Most

Fruits and vegetables were key to getting the dietary advantage, reports researcher Catherine Sauvaget, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, Japan.

Her study tracks the health of nearly 40,000 Japanese men and women from 1980 to 1998. At the start of the study, each volunteer completed a detailed questionnaire about foods they ate regularly.

Sauvaget also tracked the number of stroke deaths during the 18-year study period, finding 1926 deaths.

Her findings:

  • Almost-daily consumption of green and yellow vegetables reduced the risk of death from a stroke by 26% compared with intakes of once or less per week.
  • Of the 2 types of stroke researchers saw, strokes caused by blood clots (infarction), rather than a rupture of a brain vessel (hemorrhage), had a more protective effect from diets rich in fruits and vegetables. With this type of diet, a reduced risk of death from stroke was seen in 32% of men and 30% in women.
  • Almost-daily fruit intake reduced the risk of death from stroke by 35% in men and 25% in women.

Regular Exercise Works

Physical activity helps the heart, but whether it helps in stroke prevention or in reducing the risks of death from a stroke has been unclear. In this study, researchers pool the results of 23 studies published during the last 40 years, from 1966 to 2002.

  • Moderately active people had a 20% lower risk of stroke and stroke death compared with inactive people.
  • Highly active people had a 27% reduced risk in stroke and death from stroke compared with inactive or unfit people.

Both groups had less risk of two types of stroke -- ischemic (due to blockage) and hemorrhagic (bleeding) -- than those who were sedentary, reports Chong Do Lee, EdD, a sports and exercise science researcher with West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.

Clearly, lifestyle changes can go a long way in stroke prevention, researchers conclude.

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SOURCES: Lee, C. Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, Sept. 19, 2003; rapid access issue. Sauvaget, C. Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, Sept. 19, 2003; rapid access issue.

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