A stroke can be a terrifying and traumatic event. Strokes happen when blood flow is blocked and cannot reach your brain, which may be due to weakened or ruptured arteries or a burst blood vessel. Although it’s scary to think about, the good news is that you can often reduce your risk of stroke.
People with heart problems or heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at higher risk of stroke. That’s why finding a diet and fitness plan that can help reduce the risk of these chronic diseases is essential to help prevent or reduce your risk of stroke.
To learn more, we spoke with dietitians about their advice on the best eating habits to reduce stroke risk. Read on and for more heart-healthy tips, check out 4 Worst Breakfast Habits for Blood Pressure.
“Healthy fats and omega-3s help keep the brain healthy and can help prevent brain disease. My top healthy fatty foods are salmon, avocado, and chia seeds,” says Morgyn Clair, MS, RDNdietitian nutritionist and author at healthy mom.
You can also incorporate more healthy fats by making intentional choices with what you use to cook your food. For example, “replace your cooking spray with olive oil or canola oil,” advises one registered dietitian nutritionist. Rachel Fine, RDN, the founder of At The Peak Nutrition.
“High sodium intakes are linked to hypertension, which contributes to stroke risk. Studies have shown that a moderate sodium intake has a protective effect against strokes,” Clair says.
According to a 2021 report published in Strokehigher sodium intakes were linked to an increased risk of stroke, which is why the American Heart Association released new guidelines to eat less than or equal to 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
The CDC lists his specific guidelines for living a lifestyle that can help reduce the risk of stroke. On that list are things like exercising regularly, limiting your alcohol intake, and eating a healthy diet. As for a “healthy diet,” the CDC suggests eating foods low in saturated fat, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and getting enough fiber each day.
In a meta-analysis which reviewed over 8,900 stroke cases, it was found that consuming fiber helped reduce the risk of stroke. This decreased risk was about 12% per 10 grams of fiber added throughout the day, according to the report.
Another important dietary habit for stroke prevention is limiting your intake of red meat, primarily due to its high saturated fat content.
According to a review published in Stroke and Vascular NeurologyReplacing saturated fats like red meat with healthy Mediterranean-inspired fats helps reduce the risk of stroke.
One thing that Fine says is really helpful for your overall health is to focus less on losing weight and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
“Finally, consider healing your relationship with food and removing the pressure to focus solely on weight loss. Lifestyle changeswhether or not weight is lost, have been associated with statistically and clinically relevant improvements in physiological measures such as blood pressure and blood lipids,” says Fine.