Shrewd Living

Last Updated: 04/17/2014 11:20 PST

Eating This Lowers Your Stroke Risk by 32%

It’s a common saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But could it ward off your risk of a stroke?

As it turns out, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet could reduce it by up to 32 percent, according to a new analysis led by researchers from the Medical College of Qingdao University in China.

“The findings are consistent with the current knowledge that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables should be encouraged to prevent stroke,” says Dr. Yan Qu, a researcher from the Qingdao Municipal Hospital and Medical College of Qingdao University. “The effect could be indirect, and eating fruits and vegetables may benefit overall health by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and other stroke risk factors. It’s also possible that specific nutrients in the foods may reduce stroke risk.”

Examining a total of 20 studies including 760,629 participants–and reportedly around 17,000 cases of stroke–Qu examined how many of these people ate fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. He also evaluated other risk factors that increased their risk of stroke, such as a family history and previous health problems.

As it turned out, those who ate the most fruits and vegetables faced a lower stroke risk–by as low as 21 percent. But this number increased up to 32 percent for those who added 200 grams more vegetables or fruit to their diet.

“It’s also possible that specific nutrients in the foods may reduce stroke risk,” says Qu. “The effect of other types of fruit and vegetables on stroke risk still needs to be confirmed.”

As for the reasons why fruits and vegetables may decrease a person’s stroke risk, Qu suggests that people who eat these foods may generally live healthier lives–for instance, they may be more motivated to exercise or watch their caloric intake. Perhaps eating more fruits and vegetables means they’re eating less processed foods, foods which can increase the risk of obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes–health problems directly linked to a higher risk of stroke.

Regardless of what the reason is, however, experts agree: It wouldn’t hurt to eat more fruits and vegetables.

“It doesn’t surprise me too much in that it seems to confirm what a lot of other studies have shown,” says Dr. David A. Miller, director of the Advanced Primary Stroke Center at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. “We still don’t know if there is anything inherent in the fruits and vegetables or whether it’s their effect on blood pressure. Eating fruits and vegetables is helpful, but it’s not the only thing.”

What You Should Do

Want to lower your stroke risk? Then it’s time to change up your diet–by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. For the lowest risk possible, consider fitting in a vegetable or fruit into each daily meal for a healthy way to ward off stroke.


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