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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Food for Thought on Strokes and Risk

By Michael McBurney

Until today, the thought of ‘silent strokes’ was unhead-of. It was shocking to read that 1 in 10 adults experience a silent stroke by their early 60s. Twenty percent of women (1 in 5) and 1 in 6 men have a stroke during their life. Almost 1/3 of these may suffer significant cognitive impairment for months after the event.

According to the American Stroke Association, the most common risk factors are age (being > 65y), genetics (having a family history), race (being African American), sex (being female), and having had a stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA) or heart attack.

Nutrition can help lower the risk of stroke. There are several FDA-approved health claims relating to reducing the risk of chronic disease. Elevated cholesterol concentrations lead to plaque formation in arteries and are a risk factor for heart disease.  To maintain healthy blood cholesterol concentrations, consume a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eating the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol with oat beta-glucan (0.6g per serving) may also help maintain healthy blood cholesterol concentrations. A diet with lots of potassium-rich foods and low in sodium can also help maintain normal blood pressure.

Increasing dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids can favorably affect arterial structure and function. Monahan and colleagues found supplementing 4g omega-3 daily for 12 week  decreased measures of central arterial stiffness in older healthy adults. Although they did not find a significant difference in younger healthy adults, Bryant and colleagues reported children born from women who ate more omega-3 rich fish in late pregnancy had lower measures (pulse wave velocity) of arterial stiffness at 9y of age.

Bottomline: diet and exercise can modulate arterial structure and function. Aside from genetics, sex, and age, a healthy brain is a reflection of of diet and physical activity. Eat nutritiously. Exercise regularly.

Main Citation

Gorelick PB, Nyenhuis D. Stroke and cognitive decline. 2015 JAMA doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.7149

Other Citations

Monahan KD, Feehan RP, Blaha C, McLaughlin DJ. Effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on central arterial stiffness and arterial wave reflections in young and older healthy adults. 2015 Physiol Reports doi: 10.1481/phy2.12438

Bryant J, Hanson M, Peebles C, Davies L, Inskip H, Robinson S, Calder PC, Cooper C, Godfrey KM. Higher oily fish consumption in late pregnancy is associated with reduced aortic stiffness in the child at age 9 years. 2015 Circulation Res doi: 10.1161/circresaha.116.305158

Siaso G, Athanasiou D, Terzis G, Stasinaki A, Tourikis P, Dimitropoulos E, Tsouroulas S, Gouliopoulos N, Oikonomou E, Zaromitidou M, Mourouzis K, Tsalamandris S, Kokkou E, Stefanadis CI, Tousoulis D. Effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on vascular function. 2015 J Am Coll Cardiol doi: 10.1016/S0735-1097(15)60292-3