How to Prevent a Stroke

How to Prevent a Stroke

August 10, 2019 25 By Jose Scott


“How to Prevent a Stroke” High dietary fiber intake
may prevent strokes. The belief that dietary fiber intake is
protectively associated to some diseases was postulated 40 years ago
and then enormously fueled and kept alive by a great
body of science since. Today, it is therefore
generally believed that eating lots of fiber
helps prevent obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases
such as stroke. Strokes are the second most
common cause of death worldwide. Moreover, stroke is a leading
cause of disability and so preventing strokes in the first place –
what’s called primary prevention– should therefore, be a key
public health priority. Based on all the best studies
to date fiber appears to significantly protect
against the risk of stroke. Different strokes
for different folks, perhaps depending,
on how much fiber they ate. Notably, increasing fiber
just 7 grams a day was associated with a significant
7% reduction in stroke risk. And 7 grams is easy, like a small
serving of whole grain pasta with tomato sauce
and an apple. What’s the mechanism? Well, fiber helps lower cholesterol
and blood sugar levels. Or could just be that we’d be
eating more vegetables, or less calories,
or less meat and fat, or improving digestion, slimming us down,
lowering our blood pressure and the amount of inflammation
within our bodies. Does it really
matter though? As Dr. Burkitt commented on the
biblical passage that reads, “A man scatters seed on the land—the seed
sprouts and opens—how, he does not know”. But he doesn’t wait
to find out. Had the farmer postponed his sowing until
he understood seed germination, he would not have
lasted very long. So yes, let’s keep trying to figure
out WHY fiber is protective, but in the meanwhile we should
be increasing our intake of fiber, which is to say
whole plant foods. And it’s never
too early. Strokes are one of many complications
of arterial stiffness. Though our first stroke may
not happen until our 50s, our arteries may have
been already stiffening for decades leading
up to it. Hundreds of kids were
followed for 24 years, from age 13 in junior
high through age 36, and they found that lower intake
of fiber during young age is associated with stiffening of the
arteries leading up to the brain, and so we need to promote consumption
of fiber-rich foods among the youth. In fact, even by age 13
they could see a difference in arterial stiffness
depending on diet. This emphasizes the view that
increases in fiber intake should be pursued already that
young among young children. And again, it doesn’t take much. One extra apple a day or an
extra quarter cup of broccoli might translate to
meaningful differences in arterial stiffness
in adulthood. But if you REALLY
don’t want a stroke, we should try to get 25 grams
a day of soluble fiber, which is found in beans,
oats, nuts, and berries, and 47 grams a day
of insoluble fiber, found primarily
in whole grains. One would have to eat an
extraordinarily healthy diet to get that much, yet these cut-off
values could be considered as the MINIMUM recommended
daily intake of soluble and insoluble fiber,
to prevent stroke. They admit these are higher
than those commonly and arbitrarily proposed as “adequate”
levels by scientific societies, but do we want to be patronized to as
to what authorities think is practical, or do we just want them to
tell us what the science says, like the researchers did here? Someone funded by Kellogg’s
wrote in to complain that in practice such fiber
intakes are unachievable. Rather the message should just be,
mmm… the more, the better, ya know, just have a bowl
of cereal or something (wink,wink). The real Dr. Kellogg, who was actually
one of our most famous physicians, credited for being one of the first
to sound the alarm about smoking, may have been the first American
physician to have recognized the field of nutrition
as a science, would today be rolling
in his grave if he knew what his company
had become.