Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States. So, what can you do about it besides adopting a good lifestyle program of regular exercise, losing weight if obese, and enjoying a plant-based diet?
1. Eat red plant foods.
In a twelve-year study, Finnish researchers studied 1,031 men in Finland between the ages of 46 and 65. They found that people with the highest amounts of lycopene in their blood were 55-59 percent less likely to have a stroke than people with the lowest amounts of lycopene in their blood.1 The antioxidant lycopene belongs to the carotenoid family and is found in tomatoes, tomato products, red-fleshed watermelon, pink grape fruit, guava, and papaya.
2. Cultivate a positive attitude.
A Finnish study showed that individuals who had less dispositional pessimism had a 48% less risk of stroke compared to those who had high levels of pessimism.2
Optimism protects against stroke. Researchers from the University of Michigan looked at the results of standard optimism tests for 6,044 men and women. All were free of stroke at the study’s start. The optimism score was on a 16-point scale. After adjusting for age, each unit increase in their optimism score reduced stroke risk about 9 percent. Even when the researchers also adjusted for other factors such as smoking, alcohol use, race, gender, hypertension, mental illness, body mass index, and level of physical activity, the association between optimism and reduced risk of stroke remained robust.3 By cultivating gratitude and focusing on life’s positives, we encourage optimism.
3. Get sufficient sleep.
Sleep if you want to prevent a stroke. Even in normal-weight, middle-aged or older individuals, insufficient sleep increases the risk for stroke. A University of Birmingham study showed that middle-aged and older individuals who had normal BMI and habitually slept less than six hours had a 4.5 fold increased risk for stroke symptoms than those who slept 8 to 9 hours.4 Regularity in sleep hours reduces fatigue, too.
4. Breathe fresh air.
Moderate air pollution increases the risk for stroke within hours. Researchers who studied more than 1,700 stroke patients in the Boston area over a 10-year period found exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, (generally from vehicle traffic, factories, and the burning of wood), was associated with a significantly higher risk of ischemic strokes on days when the EPA’s air quality index for particulate matter was yellow instead of green.5 Perhaps those who are at risk for stroke should exercise inside (with an air purifier) on code yellow and code orange days.
By the way, deep breathing improves the blood flow returning to heart and also helps the nervous system control blood pressure better. So take 10 deep breathes every 30 minutes when awake.
We might also emphasize that it is extremely important to prevent diabetes, atherosclerosis, and hypertension. These conditions seriously increase one’s risk for stroke. If you have these conditions, please keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol within your doctor’s recommendation.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is helpful and is educational. It is not the author’s or authors’ or Wildwood Health Institute’s intent to substitute the blog article for diagnosis, counseling, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
Copyright through December 2023. All rights reserved by Wildwood Sanitarium, Inc.
- J Karppi, J. A. Laukkanen, J. Sivenius, K. Ronkainen, S. Kurl. Serum lycopene decreases the risk of stroke in men: A population-based follow-up study. Neurology, 2012; 79 (15): 1540 DOI: 10.1212 ↩
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2012, June 11). Top risk of stroke for normal-weight adults: Getting under 6 hours of sleep. ↩
- Ref. G. A. Wellenius, et al., Ambient Air Pollution and the Risk of Acute Ischemic Stroke. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012; 172 (3): 229 DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.732↩