My dad is in his mid-eighties, sharp as a tack. We don’t see him dealing with memory problems except the normal forgetfulness that comes with age. (Who isn’t these days, right?!) But before mom died, she suffered two strokes, and I was wondering if there were any diet changes dad can make to help him avoid the same? -Lorraine, Babylon, NY
A lot of study has been conducted in this area, and many great ideas come immediately to mind. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, and even when death does not occur, the effects left behind by a stroke can be devastating to patient and loved ones. But, since strokes are related in great part to high cholesterol and hypertension, there are actions we can take every day that can often decrease the risk — changes in diet included. Let’s take a quick peak.
First off, find out if your dad has high blood pressure, which doesn’t always show clear symptoms. In fact, sadly, often the first symptom of high blood pressure is the stroke itself. Test for high cholesterol as well; diabetes, too, especially if your dad is overweight. Is your dad a smoker? If so, urge him to quit. A history of smoking can also provoke strokes, especially if high blood pressure and high cholesterol are involved. If your dad is not active daily, get him to exercise more often. This will help him lose weight, too. Even a brisk walk can be extremely effective. Finally, make sure dad is eating smart. Eating smart can be as tough as quitting smoking, I know, and sometimes even more so, but good eating choices can go a long way toward minimizing the risk of a stroke. Better eating habits include eating smaller portions, using salt in moderation, making fast food an exception, not the rule, and only drinking in moderation.
Lastly, believe it or not, new studies indicate that increased consumption of olive oil by older adults can be directly beneficial to lowering the risk of a stroke. In fact, results demonstrate that it can be considered “a major protective component.” Extra Virgin Olive Oil was most likely used in these studies, in both cooking and dressing applications. Good info to know. But obviously, Lorraine, please consult with your dad’s doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. All the best, and thanks for writing.
Sources: About.com/stroke; MedPage Today, June 15, 2011