Heart disease, stroke and cancer remain our #1 killers, and yet each is avoidable. But, to prevent stroke, you must make a conscious effort to do these things.
We all want our bodies and brains to last about the same amount of time. However, this does not happen without a conscious effort at protecting both. Luckily, this is not really all that difficult.
One of the surest ways to rapidly short-circuit the brain is a stroke. Brain attack. Transient ischemic attack (TIA). The end result can vary from full recovery to significant disability to death.
The good thing is that this event is heavily preventable.
Before we go further, however, I do need to clarify that we are talking about ischemic stroke–the kind that occurs when a blood vessel gets blocked and the brain tissues fed by this blood vessels begin to die off from lack of oxygen. This is a much different animal than a hemorrhagic stroke, where a blood vessel ruptures and the blood pours into an area of the brain, damaging the tissues affected. Most of what we know about preventing strokes deals with the ischemic variety.
So what do we know can help prevent strokes?
- Diets high in olive oil have been shown to lower the risk of stroke.
- Dark chocolate.
- A pro-diabetic lifestyle
This list is, of course, much longer. But I wanted to add a 4th item.
Lycopene. That red pigment of the carotenoid family found in items like tomatoes, watermelon and grapefruit.
It has already been shown to lower the risk of pancreatic cancer and protect our blood vessels better than a statin drug.
This particular study looked at how much of an effect the intake of lycopene had on the risk of stroke. Overall, those men with the highest levels of lycopene in their bloodstream had a 59% lower risk of ischemic stroke and a 55% lower risk of all types of stroke.
That’s pretty powerful stuff. Interestingly, one of the components of the Mediterranean diet that is believed to play an important role is the lycopene content from the tomatoes as well as the olive oil content. Olive oil, being fat soluble, will help our bodies absorb more lycopene from the diet. This kind of nicely ties in together several aspects of lifestyle that lower the risk of stroke.
Incidentally, studies have shown that the inclusion of a the tomato peel actually increases the lycopene level in the bloodstream. Just FYI…
So what’s your favorite way to get more lycopene in your diet?