Great news for those looking to reduce stroke risk! Middle aged plus adults may be able to bring down their risk of devastating stroke by adding low fat dairy to their diet according to a large Swedish study.
Today, strokes are the third leading cause of death in America and can devastate not only the patient but family and friends as well. Each year over 700,000 Americans have a stroke, about 160,000 die as a result.
The study team monitored the diets of almost 75,000 subjects, both men and women. Back in 1997 participants in the Swedish study, aged 45 to 83, completed a long questionnaire covering many parts of their lives as well as investigated personal characteristics – diet, exercise, BMI, employment, schooling and medical history were all covered. When the study started, no one had heart disease, had suffered a stroke or was diagnosed with cancer.
During the decade of follow up, just over 4,089 of the subjects (2,409 men, 1680 women) experienced a stroke. More than 75% of these were ischemic (when an artery supplying blood to the brain gets blocked), while nearly 600 were hemorrhagic (when blood vessels inside the brain burst).
The team saw that those who consumed the highest intake of low fat dairy had a 12% lower chance of suffering a stroke (a 13% reduced risk of ischemic stroke) in comparison with those who had the lowest intakes. According to researchers the most likely explanation for the benefit is that consuming low fat dairy products brings down blood pressure. Hypertension is a well-recognized risk factor for debilitating stroke. Calcium may also be involved by helping to lower blood pressure.
It may well be that vitamin D is involved as well, since low fat dairy products are fortified with this nutrient. Earlier research has suggested that getting enough vitamin D might help prevent high blood pressure.
The researchers also saw that those who consumed four portions of low fat cheeses, milk and yogurts per day significantly reduced the chance of stroke compared with those who did not include low fat dairy as part of their diets. Even after accounting for risk factors for strokes like hypertension, the team saw that the reduction from low fat dairy was still strong.
When it comes to full fat dairy, the team found that these foods were not linked to a reduction of stroke risk. The reason? Full fat dairy may up your LDL (bad) cholesterol and thus counter some of the helpful effects that typically are a part of the food or drink.
This study on ways to reduce stroke risks adds to what experts know about the amazing benefits of low fat diets. But eating right is only one aspect of stroke prevention. If you're concerned about your own risk, you should also make other changes, including quitting smoking and getting more active as these behaviors can bring down your risk significantly – by at least 50%.