Stroke is the number three killer in the United States, targeting upwards of half a million people every year. Those that do not die from it are often left handicapped or diminished. This is because strokes temporarily starve the brain of oxygen, potentially leaving important neurological functions nonexistent or dysfunctional.
Practically anyone is susceptible to them, and it is nearly impossible to predict when one will strike. Luckily, with some basic knowledge and preparation, one can avoid some of the known triggers that may lead to a stroke. Nothing can provide you with immunity, but you can lower your risk by eating the right things.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or is blocked off by a blood clot, causing brain cells to be starved of both nutrients and oxygen. They can occur without any warning, and they are extremely deadly. Often times, recovery is a long and arduous process that takes a tremendous toll on both the individual and their family.
While the specific causes of strokes are still being researched, there are many foods and habits that will increase your risk factor.
Foods that May Trigger Strokes
Recently, a medical journal published a study that found women who ate diets high in red meat had more than a 40% higher risk of having a stroke. Saturated fat has long been known to cause heart disease and stroke, but the drastic rise in incidence surprised practically everyone. It is now theorized that the iron content leads to a thickening of the blood, potentially causing the stroke in certain individuals.
A diet containing foods high in sodium, such as preserved and prepared foods, can double your risk of stroke. Sodium increases blood pressure, which has a direct effect on your risk of a stroke. Foods high in sodium include canned soups, dehydrated foods, microwave dinners, and frozen foods. Sodium can actually have other names such as MSG or even baking powder, so beware.
Recent research has found that drinking diet soda consistently doubles your risk of a stroke. Oddly enough, there are no clear theories as to why or how this happens, but the medical evidence is indisputable. Avoid drinking diet soda on a daily basis, especially if you are over the age of 40. Instead, drink water (which will hydrate you far better anyways).
Smoked meats deserve a special place on this list because they contribute to strokes in two distinct ways. They are high in preservatives, which means they are very high in sodium.
Additionally, certain specific preservatives such as sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate have been shown to actually damage blood vessels. When purchasing deli meats or sandwiches, look for low sodium versions or pick another protein source altogether.
Finally, there are trans-fats. A relatively new inclusion to the human diet, trans-fats are perhaps even more dangerous than the medical community claims (which is already very, very dangerous). Trans-fats increase your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol simultaneously. This makes them devastatingly effective at causing heart disease. Even worse, just a relatively small serving (six grams a day) will increase your risk of stroke by 40%.