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Why diet matters

Why diet matters
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When it comes to your risk of stroke, some things – like your genetics – are out of your control. But your diet can have a major impact on your risk, says the Australian Government Department of Health. Eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise your cholesterol. Diets high in fat and kilojoules can lead to obesity. Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure. All these factors can put you at greater risk of having a stroke. Plus, different nutrients can also have an impact on your chances of heart problems. Here’s a look at foods you can add to your diet that are good for your heart and can help cut your risk of stroke.

Salmon

Salmon
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Eating non-fried seafood one or two times a week can lower your stroke risk, according to a review of studies published in the journal Circulation. Researchers say the omega-3 fats in oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel reduce inflammation in the arteries, helping to improve blood flow and decrease the chance of blood clots. Eating more fish also could mean your diet contains less unhealthy fare like red meat and processed meats, which have more artery-clogging saturated fats. Aim for 150 grams of non-fried seafood two to three times per week.

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Oatmeal

Oatmeal
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Here’s how to prevent stroke by lowering your ‘bad’ DL cholesterol: warm up a steaming bowl of porridge or oats! A study, published in 2019 in Scientific Reports, shows that eating porridge lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease such as stroke. Participants who consumed oats had lower levels of LDL and triglycerides, a lower ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol, and lower levels of inflammatory markers. If you have multiple risks for cardiovascular disease, aim to get your LDL cholesterol lower than 100 mg/dl. And try to get 20 grams of soluble fibre a day to get your cholesterol in check. Start your day right with a 3/4-cup serving of porridge, but skip the instant and instead choose steel-cut oats which packs in almost 30 per cent of your daily recommended soluble fibre.

Here’s what you need to know about cholesterol.

Black beans

Black beans
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Make a major dent in your daily fibre goals by dishing out black beans for lunch. A review of studies published in Public Health Nutrition shows that a diet rich in legumes like black beans was associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. Researchers attribute the findings to legumes’ intrinsically good-for-you characteristics and the fact that they are often a substitute for unhealthy sources of protein. Add 3/4 cup black beans to a salad, bowl of stew, or a reheated black bean burrito, and you’ll already be 27 per cent of the way to meeting your daily recommendation.

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Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes
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Sweet potatoes are one of your best bets for a heart-healthy side dish at dinner. Just 150g of baked sweet potatoes contains 100 per cent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A and vitamin C which help maintain a healthy immune system, healthy eyes, skin and nervous system. Plus, sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants to help prevent plaque build-up in blood vessels.

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Blueberries

Blueberries
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Antioxidants help blood vessels widen to keep your blood flow strong while reducing inflammation. So it’s no surprise that a study published in the journal Antioxidants suggests that antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, strawberries and blackberries have the power to lower the risk of a second heart attack or stroke. Aiming for five servings of fruits and two of veggies every day will also help stave off stroke risk. A cup of blueberries counts as two servings toward your goal.

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Low-fat milk

Low-fat milk
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Sometimes dairy gets a bad rap. A review of studies published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who consume higher amounts of dairy – specifically milk and cheese products – have a lower risk of stroke. Dairy products are loaded with calcium, magnesium and potassium. Those nutrients all can help lower blood pressure, so aim to get two or three servings a day.

Bananas

Bananas
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Eating more potassium can actually lower blood pressure, even in people with hypertension. A study published in the journal Stroke found that potassium plays an important role in preventing strokes. Aim for 3800 milligrams a day – a banana packs in 422 milligrams. Green bananas in particular can help reduce blood pressure, says dietitian, Michelle Routhenstein. “Green unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which…improves insulin sensitivity,” she says. “Insulin sensitivity improves blood sugar control, which can help assist with optimising blood flow and reducing blood pressure.”

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds
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Another study published in Stroke analysed data from more than 36,000 people and found that eating magnesium-rich foods can reduce stroke risk by about 20 per cent. Just 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds will get you about 42 per cent of the way to the 420-milligram daily recommendation for men (recommendation for women is 320 milligrams). Pumpkin itself has great health benefits too. If pumpkin seeds aren’t your thing, barley, buckwheat, spinach and black beans are other excellent sources of magnesium.

Check out these foods that are naturally high in magnesium.

Kale

Kale
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Kale and Swiss chard are packed with magnesium, so eating them can help keep your heart healthy. “Magnesium acts as a vasodilator, opening up blood vessels, and protects the endothelium, the innermost layer of blood vessel walls,” says Dr Carolyn Dean. “Magnesium also closes the calcium channel to excessive calcium influx, which is toxic and damaging to arteries and blood vessels.”

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