For most of my medical career, stroke was the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer. Just a few years ago, chronic lower respiratory tract disease surpassed stroke.
Stroke continues to fall in rank and fell recently to fifth place, overtaken by accidents (unintentional injuries).
Even non-fatal strokes can be devastating.
Reduce your risk of stroke by maintaining normal blood pressure, not smoking, exercise regularly, living at a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol consumption, don’t get diabetes, and limit your age to 55. It’s also important to seek medical attention if you have a TIA (transient ischemic attack).
I also think the Mediterranean diet helps.
Steve Parker, M.D.
Front cover of book
This tower is in Pisa, Italy
This won’t surprise you if you’ve been reading this blog for a while:
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, killing around 610,000 people annually. Heart attack affects around 735,000 Americans each year, while around 800,000 people are affected by stroke.
Adopting a healthy diet is considered key for reducing the risk of CVD, and numerous studies have suggested the Mediterranean diet fits the bill.
A study published in the European Heart Journal earlier this year, for example, found older adults who adhered to the Mediterranean diet were at lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death than those who followed a Western diet.”
Source: Mediterranean diet linked to reduced risk of CVD – Medical News Today
Olive oil and vinegar: prominent features of the Mediterranean diet
“The Mediterranean diet can be described as a dietary pattern characterized by the high consumption of plant-based foods, olive oil as the main source of fat, low-to-moderate consumption of fish, dairy products and poultry, low consumption of red and processed meat, and low-to-moderate consumption of wine with meals. The American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association recommend Mediterranean diet for improving glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes. Prospective studies show that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a 20-23 % reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while the results of randomized controlled trials show that Mediterranean diet reduces glycosylated hemoglobin levels by 0.30-0.47 %, and is also associated with a 28-30 % reduced risk for cardiovascular events.”
Source: Mediterranean diet for type 2 diabetes: cardiometabolic benefits. – PubMed – NCBI
Judicious wine consumption is one component of the traditional healthy Mediterranean diet
Telomeres are very trendy in the biomedical research community. Like kale and chia seeds with hipster foodies.
Telomeres are repetitive chains of amino acids attached to strands of your DNA. The longer your telomeres, the lower your risk of chronic disease and premature death, generally speaking.
The massive Nurses Health Study showed that women who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had the longer telomeres, which is good. That fits with other evidence of greater longevity and lower chronic disease rates in Mediterranean dieters.
Click for a brief pertinent article at NEJM Journal Watch, which includes a link to the original research report.
To lose weight with the Mediterranean diet, check out my book, Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.
Steve Parker, M.D.
PS: If you didn’t know chia pets have their own Wikipedia page, see my other books.
PPS: We don’t know if telomeres are longer in men eating Mediterranean-style
The American Journal of Medicine has an article entitled “Diets to Prevent Coronary Heart Disease 1957- 2013: What Have We Learned?” The authors conclude:
The Mediterranean-style diet, with a focus on vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains and olive oil, has proven to reduce cardiovascular events to a degree greater than low fat diets, and equal to or greater than the benefit observed in statin trials.
The only bone I’ll pick with that quote today is that folks with diabetes and prediabetes often have unacceptable blood sugar spikes when they eat whole grains. That’s one reason I designed the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.
Steve Parker, M.D.
Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. Preserved brain function and the Mediterranean diet were positively associated in a study involving Americans in Utah. This fits with prior observations that the Mediterranean diet prevents dementia.
In the study at hand, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) also protected the brain:
Higher levels of compliance with both the DASH and Mediterranean dietary patterns were associated with consistently higher levels of cognitive function in elderly men and women over an 11-y period. Whole grains and nuts and legumes were positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.
See the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for details.
Olive oil and vinegar: prominent components of the Mediterranean diet
We’ve known for years that the Mediterranean diet helps prolong life and prevent cancer, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and strokes in folks who start out healthy.
What about patients with existing cardiovascular disease? I’m talking about history of heart attacks, strokes, angina, and coronary artery disease.
Yep. The Mediterranean diet helps them live longer, too.
Details of the study are at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research was done at Harvard.
Steve Parker, M.D.