How can I adjust my diet to reduce my risk of stroke?
A healthy diet can reduce your risk for acquiring medical conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, high lipid levels (high cholesterol), coronary artery disease and obesity. All of these conditions can increase your chance of having a stroke. Your genetics, history of prior stroke, age, sex, current weight, distribution of body fat, eating habits and fitness level also influence your risk.
Factors that tend to increase blood pressure:
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle
- Low intake of some minerals, such as calcium and potassium
- High intake of sodium (salt)
To lower your risk of stroke, follow these guidelines:
- Eat a variety of foods.
- Maintain a healthy weight by balancing the calories you eat with physical activity.
- Choose more whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
- Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Choose foods with moderate amounts of added sugar.
- Choose foods with moderate amounts of salt (sodium).
- If you drink alcoholic beverages, consult your physician and do so in moderation.
Practical tips for getting started on a healthier diet and lifestyle:
- Be realistic: Make one or two small changes every month and stick to them, such as including a fruit and/or vegetable with each meal.
- Be adventurous: Expand your tastes and try a greater variety of foods.
- Be flexible: Balance what you eat and your physical activity over several days.
- Be sensible: Enjoy all foods; just don't overdo it.
- Be active: Walk the dog; don't just watch the dog walk!
- Seek assistance from a registered dietitian (RD) to help guide you in making these significant lifestyle changes toward healthier eating.