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Foods that Cause a Stroke and Increase the Risk of Strokes

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Foods that Cause a Stroke and Increase the Risk of StrokesA stroke is a condition where the blood supply to the brain is interrupted leading to death of a portion of the brain tissue. It is one of the major and most serious cardiovascular conditions to affect the elderly along with a heart attack. Indeed many of the risk factors and causes of a stroke are the same as coronary artery disease (CAD) which affects the heart. A major contributing factor in this regard is lifestyle – diet, exercise, body weight, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.

How do foods cause a stroke?

There are certain foods which are known to be major contributing factors to the development of a stroke. It is these foods along with the presence of other problems like high blood pressure and diabetes that can increase the likelihood of a stroke. These foods can therefore be said to be a causative factor although it is misleading to say that it plays a role in stroke entirely on its own. The main way that food causes a stroke is by contributing to high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.

Do foods trigger a stroke?

Foods do not trigger a stroke. In medicine, a trigger factor is any event or substance that initiates the disease process thereby leading to the onset of the disease usually within minutes or hours. In this regards, certain foods can be seen to be a cause of a stroke and even a risk factor but cannot trigger a stroke. A person who suffers with a stroke was at risk of developing the condition for weeks or months and no specific food can suddenly bring on the condition entirely on its own.

The role of foods and diet in a stroke

There are three important factors to consider when look at the role of food and dietary habits in the development of a stroke.

  • Fatty foods
  • Obesity
  • Blood pressure

It is surprising to know that cholesterol in the diet only accounts for some 20% of the cholesterol in the body. The rest of the cholesterol is made in the body. However, the fats in the blood are a bit more complicated than just the presence of cholesterol. Another type of fat known as triglyceride is just as important in causing diseases associated with fatty plaques in the wall of blood vessels (atherosclerosis). It also plays an important role in elevated blood cholesterol.

When the body does not properly metabolize fats and especially when a person is obese, these fats can exist in forms that will stick to the wall of the blood vessel. This gradually narrows the blood vessel. With a stroke, it is the neck arteries that are commonly affected and over time there is less oxygen rich blood reaching the brain. Should these narrowed blood vessels suddenly be blocked by a clot, then a stroke can occur. This is known as a thrombotic or embolic stroke – the most common types of stroke.

Just as importantly, fatty plaques can weaken a blood vessel and with high blood pressure can cause an artery in the brain to rupture suddenly. This is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. However, there is usually some type of congenital defect in the artery of the brain meaning that it was present from birth.

Foods to Avoid for Stroke Prevention

Nutrition Facts and Information for Tomato Cheddar Soup (8 fl oz)

Nutrition Facts and Information for Tomato Cheddar Soup (8 fl oz)

One would think that it is only fatty foods that are the problem and while it is the major food group that needs to be avoided, it is not the only one. The role of obesity which in turn contributes to diabetes and high blood pressure in causing a stroke is important to consider. These conditions are also linked to foods and dietary habits. Similarly hypertension (high blood pressure) is not exempt from the impact of foods.

Fatty Foods

Fatty foods, particularly foods laden with saturated fats are one of the biggest contributors to high cholesterol and triglyceride levels which in turn lead to the build up of fatty plaques in the wall of arteries. These saturated fats are abundant in :

  • Fried foods especially fast foods.
  • Meat and meat products.
  • Dairy and especially butter, certain oils, cheese and lard.
  • Nuts and seeds including its oils.
  • Sweets and desserts like chocolate and whipped cream.
  • Certain types of fish.

However, there is a host of other foods that may be just as detrimental when eaten in large quantities despite having a lower saturated fat content ounce for ounce from the foods discussed above.

Fattening Foods

High fat and high calorie foods causes weight gain. A person who is overweight and especially obese is at greater risk of a stroke than a person who is within a normal BMI (body mass index). A sedentary life also play a major factor in obesity as well but dietary control is just as important a factor. Obesity also contributes to diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) and high blood pressure – two important contributors to a stroke.

Ounce for ounce fat has more calories than any other food. Therefore fatty foods, especially foods mentioned above which are laden with saturated fats, need to be avoided. In addition, refined foods including wheat products and sweet foods containing sugar also need to be removed from the diet or at the very least minimized.

High Blood Pressure Foods

Salt, and sodium specifically which is a component of common table salt, is a well known contributor to high blood pressure. However, there are various different but equally detrimental compounds that are consumed in foods which have sodium. High blood pressure is a major factor in a stroke and preventing it or at least minimizing the severity through diet and medication is important.

Preserved foods are some of the most salt-laden foods in the modern diet. This includes smoked, processed and even canned foods. Sodium is abundant in many convenience foods which may not even taste salty. Just as important in high blood pressure are the fatty foods and high calorie foods which need to be avoided since obesity can cause high blood pressure even if a person is on a low sodium diet.


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