This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Incidence of stroke in the U.S. and western cultures continues to grow at a staggering rate as it takes the lives of nearly 150,000 Americans each year, making this debilitating illness the fourth leading cause of preventable death.
Closely aligned with heart disease and other vascular disorders, stroke is the result of several key modifiable lifestyle factors including smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor dietary choices that promote arterial hardening and blood clots that circulate until they reach a narrowed artery, wreaking permanent disability or death.
A research team from the University of Leeds in the U.K. published the result of a study in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke, that explains how taking steps to include more fiber in your diet could help to protect you from suffering a stroke.
Leader of the study team Dr. Diane Threapelton noted, “Most people do not get the recommended level of fiber, and increasing fiber may contribute to lower risk for strokes… we must educate consumers on the continued importance of increasing fiber intake and help them learn how to increase fiber in their diet.”
The recommended daily intake for fiber is currently set at 25 grams, yet most people consume less than 10 grams due to the high number of calories consumed from an increasingly refined diet. Food processing removes most nutrients and fiber from foods, while fortifying with added sugars, fats and flavorings to prompt immediate taste satisfaction. Dietary fiber — soluble and insoluble — comes from plants, a critical food source that is grossly lacking in many western diets.
Eat a Minimum of 10 Daily Servings of Fruits & Vegetables to Slash Stroke Risk
Scientists focused on eight large-scale studies published over a 22-year span that assessed the impact of diet on both ischemic (caused by a blood clot) and hemorrhagic (caused by blood vessel leakage) stroke.
After adjusting for risk variables such as smoking and age, the researchers found that for every seven-gram increase in fiber consumed daily, risk of first time stroke goes down by seven percent. You would need to consume 6 to 8 servings of grains and 8 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits daily to yield 25 grams of fiber.
Dr. Threapelton concluded, “Greater intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts are important for everyone, and especially for those with stroke risk factors like being overweight, smoking and having high blood pressure.”
Top sources for dietary fiber include nuts and seeds, legumes, oats, the pulp of some fruits, broccoli and carrots. Eliminating refined convenience foods will allow you to incorporate sufficient fiber from natural sources to significantly lower the risk for a first stroke event.