Doctor of Medicine

Has any of your parents or other relatives suffered from stroke in the past? Chances are, you might also be a candidate for stroke.

Stairlift companies say they receive hundreds of requests for home mobility assistance and stairlift information each month from people who suffered from stroke. The number of people suffering from stroke is on the rise – you see it in health statistics and, apparently, in the booming business of mobility equipment.

Protect yourself and your family from stroke by learning more about it and making health-centric decisions. You can start right now by reading about what stroke is, what causes it, and what you can do to prevent it.

Stroke: Basic Facts

Stroke occurs when the oxygen supply to a part of the brain is interrupted. This can happen if a clot blocks the blood supply (ischaemic) or if a blood vessel to the brain ruptures (haemorrhagic).

A change in diet cannot provide a guarantee that you will never suffer from stroke or “brain attack”, but healthy eating can dramatically reduce your chances of having one.

The best way to prevent a stroke is through a combination of lifestyle choices:

  • A healthy diet
  • Abstinence from smoking
  • Regular exercise
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake

Fat and Stroke

fatty food

A high-fat diet can lead to a buildup of fatty plaque along the inside of your arteries, which causes them to narrow. If this plaque gets displaced and travels to your brain, you might suffer from a stroke.

Not all fats were created equally. A small amount of unsaturated fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. However, saturated fats should be avoided as these are bad for the health.

These are foods with high saturated fat. In small amounts, they are fine, but consuming them in high amounts may wreak havoc on your cholesterol metabolism:

  • Fatty meat
  • Sausages
  • Hard cheese
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Cakes and biscuits

When using fats for cooking, avoid lard and ghee. Opt for unsaturated fats such as sunflower, vegetable, and olive oils.

Salt: Its Role in Stroke and Hypertension

A high intake of salt may increase your blood pressure. In turn, this may increase your stroke risk.

Limit the amount of salt in your diet. The amount recommended for you depends on the health of your kidneys and your predisposition to hypertension. Remember that much of the salt you consume will be hidden in pre-prepared food, so try to avoid adding extra salt to your meals.

Recommended Diet

A healthy diet low in fat and high in fibre will help prevent stroke.

Unsaturated fats in foods such as oily fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds help keep your cardiovascular system healthy.

Broccoli is rich in folic acid, which helps lower your levels of clot-causing homocysteine. It’s best to lightly steam your broccoli rather than boil them, as this helps the broccoli retain the B vitamin.

Oranges and any other vitamin C-rich foods are also a good choice. Vitamin C combats free radicals which damage the lining of arteries and increase the risk for stroke. (Another source of antioxidants is betacarotene, the plant pigment that makes carrots orange.)

A healthy diet is high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. It is the soluble fibre, found in pears, oats, apples, bananas, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables, that is important in the prevention of stroke. This type of fibre has a gummy consistency which traps cholesterol and helps carry it out of your body through your digestive system, helping to lower your cholesterol levels and keep your circulatory system healthy.

Adding garlic to your cooking will up your intake of allicin, which helps reduce your chances of blood clots. (Just make sure you crush your garlic to allow allinase to interact with cysteine, therefore producing allicin. Don’t overcook garlic for more than 20 minutes to retain allicin!)

A diet rich in magnesium helps promote a healthy circulatory system. It can reduce your risk of stroke by up to 9%, as well as decreasing your risk of angina, but as stairlift manufacturer Acorn points out, you would need to eat 10 oz of almonds every day to replicate the effect achieved through dietary supplements.

Other Risk Factors for Stroke

Being overweight can increase your blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of suffering a stroke. Eating a healthy diet, and leading an active life will help keep your weight within the recommended range.

Regular exercise helps reduce your risk of stroke by keeping your circulatory system healthy, lowering your cholesterol level, and reducing your blood pressure.

Healthy adults should take around 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week. Exercise can also promote feelings of well-being and relaxation, which combats stress, another risk factor for strokes.

Being a smoker doubles your chances of suffering from a stroke, as it narrows your arteries and makes it more likely a blood clot will form.

Stress is an important risk factor for strokes as well as other serious diseases. Eating well, exercising frequently, getting plenty of rest and generally taking good care of yourself will help keep your stress levels down. Your mental health has a very real and direct impact on your physical health, and it should not be overlooked when considering lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of stroke.



Stef dela Cruz is a doctor-columnist who received the Dean Bacala Academic Excellence Award from the University of Santo Tomas and the Health Media Award from the Department of Health. She is the human of three cats and a dog. Stalk her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – she won’t sue.

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