Magazine article Psychology Today

A Stroke of Luck

Magazine article Psychology Today

A Stroke of Luck

Article excerpt


Dietary variety keeps the brain's blood vessels healthy. By Hara Estroff Marano

CANNY AS IT is, the brain deploys a number of ways to preserve its functions overtime. Brain cells turn out a variety of homegrown neurotrophic factors to maintain integrity. Behavioral actions such as intellectual challenges and physical activity keep brains humming as well. The most significant way to keep brain cells healthy is to assure they get an adequate blood supply.

Unfortunately, interruption of blood flow to the brain- by blockage or hemorrhage- is common among Americans. Stroke is the third leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer), and each year nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke. While stroke risk dramatically increases after age 55, nearly a quarter of strokes occur amongthose under age 65. High blood pressure and smoking are two of the biggest risk factors. Yet researchers are discoveringthat dietplays ahuge role in keeping the brain and its blood supply in good working order, and, in some cases, can even limit the damage to brain cells if stroke occurs.

* Fruit Boost

No one miracle food can eliminate the risk of stroke- but eating an array of fruits and vegetables confers significant protection. It's the variety that's important, say Swedish scientists, as it provides many different antioxidants that work synergistically to inhibit oxidative stress and inflammation of blood vessels, major factors in stroke risk. In a Karolinska Institute study of over 36,000 women, those with the highest antioxidant intake cut stroke risk 17 percent more than those with the lowest intake.

* White Knights

Bright color tends to be a good guide to antioxidant content in fruits and vegetables, yet whiteflesh fruits such as pears and apples have a particular ability to ward off stroke, Dutch scientists find. In a 10-year study of over 20,000 hearthealthy adults, those who consumed the most white fruits and veggies-including bananas, cauliflower, and cucumber-had a 52 percent lower risk of stroke. …

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