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Eating a Stroke-Prevention Diet: How Food Can Reduce Your Risk

While no foolproof methods exist to avoid getting a stroke, you can still significantly reduce your risk by consuming a strict stroke-prevention diet. Eating healthful foods yields numerous benefits, and sticking to the following guidelines will not only lower your risk factors for a stroke, but will also improve your overall health. The American Stroke Association (ASA) offers valuable suggestions on what to eat to encourage a stroke-free lifestyle.

Basic Guidelines

According to the ASA, there are three main risk factors for stroke you can avoid through a healthy diet:

• High blood cholesterol.

• High blood pressure.

• Excess body weight.

Focus on always burning up the same amount of calories you consume daily. This means being mindful of how many calories are in the foods you normally eat and how many are torched through your regular exercise routine. If you're trying to lose excess weight, it's ideal to burn off more calories than you consume.

Best Foods to Eat

Your body needs certain nutrients to perform at its highest capacity. This means eating a variety of good-for-you foods from all food groups, each of which offers its own types of nutrients. Account for the following in your diet:

• A variety of vegetables and fruits high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber (while keeping sugar and calorie intake low). Dark, leafy greens, also known as cruciferous vegetables (spinach and kale), are particularly nutritious.

• Lean meats with no skin or added saturated and trans fat. Fish is especially nutritious, particularly oily fish (salmon and trout) that contain omega-3 fatty acids.

• Unrefined whole-grain foods high in fiber and other nutrients.

• Dairy products that contain minimal amounts of fat (either fat-free, 1 percent fat, or low-fat).

• Low-sodium foods.

• Unprocessed foods.

Eat moderate portions, no matter what's on your plate. Be especially vigilant when you go out to eat, as restaurants serve larger portions with more salt and fat than you should be eating, especially for a stroke-prevention diet.

Foods to Avoid

Different foods have varying amounts of calories and nutrition. Some foods are low in calories, which is good, but they may also be low in nutrients, which isn't so helpful. In essence, these foods can be seen as empty calories because they don't contribute the nutrients your body needs to function well and reduce stroke risk. The same goes even more so for foods high in calories and low in nutrients.

Some dietary factors to avoid include:

• Foods high in trans fat, such as those containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

• Foods high in dietary cholesterol, such as bacon, non-lean red meat, and butter.

• Foods and beverages high in added sugars (including high fructose corn syrup), such as sweet baked goods and soft drinks.

• Foods high in salt/sodium, particularly prepared and processed foods.

• Full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk.

• Alcohol, which should either be eliminated or only consumed in moderation.

To sum up all this advice, let's put it this way: Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor for strokes. Therefore, focus your diet around maintaining a healthy weight or slimming down. A healthy diet that follows the guidelines presented here will help you in a variety of ways. Don't think about your diet in terms of avoiding a stroke -- instead, take solace in the fact that you're helping to ensure your overall health and well-being.

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