The incidence of cardiovascular diseases is on the rise. The transition of food habits from natural to processed food, sedentary lifestyle and lack of health awareness has contributed immensely towards lifestyle diseases like ‘Stroke’.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when an area of the brain gets deprived of blood and the brain cells begin to die. It is life threatening condition, caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel.
Stroke – The Disease Burden
As per the world data, cerebrovascular diseases attribute to around 6.15 million deaths, out of which 87% of stroke deaths are reportedly from low or middle income countries like India. In recent two decades, India has witnessed a remarkable economic and social growth. The socioeconomic surge has also induced a transition in the disease burden of the country from infectious and nutritional diseases towards lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, obesity, etc. Data from recent years have shown a consistent trend; predicting the stroke cases in India upto one million per year.
How does diet help in preventing stroke?
Diet has a linear impact on the blood pressure and cholesterol level in the blood, which is further related to the risk of stroke. There are also other mechanisms inside the body like insulin resistance, thrombosis, inflammation, lipid peroxidation etc., which also get affected by the nutritional intake and contribute to stroke. Studies have proved that a properly regulated and planned diet can decrease the risk of stroke by 19%.
What to eat to reduce incidence of stroke?
- Fruits and vegetables
The adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of stroke. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with plenty of micronutrients and antioxidants that can decrease the process of lipid peroxidation. This finding has been confirmed by a meta-analysis (a study in which results from many studies are combined) in which the risk of stroke was reduced to 21% in the group with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables compared to the group with a minimum intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Tree nuts and peanuts
Tree nuts and peanuts are also rich in nutrients like polyunsaturated fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants, arginine, and other phytochemicals. Further a good intake of nuts is also associated with decreased risk of risk of hypertension and diabetes. Most guidelines suggest that three to four servings of nuts are ideal for stroke prevention.
Legumes such as clover, peas, beans and chickpeas are another class of food with high protein, fibres, folate and micronutrients. With a known lipid lowering effect legumes have the capacity to boost cardiac health. In a meta-analysis, which included data from 11 clinical studies, it was revealed that the intake of legumes lowered total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides by 7%, 6%, and 17%, respectively without any major effect on body weight.
The inference for fish consumption for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases dates back as 50 years ago, following which many studies have been done to prove the same. A significant decrease in the risk of thrombotic stroke (relative risk, 0.49; 95% confidence interval, 0.26-0.93) was observed among women who ate fish at least two times per week compared with women who ate fish less than once per month.
- Food rich in potassium
Eating potassium rich food like potatoes, fruits, prunes, and raisins can also help in stroke prevention. In the United States, a follow-up study conducted on health professionals showed a 38% risk reduction in study participants who had nine servings of potassium rich food that compared to participants were on just four daily servings of the same food. Particularly, among women potassium intake has been significantly associated with decreased risk of stroke.