You have probably heard that the Mediterranean diet is great for weight loss and can also help you to keep your heart healthy. But did you know that following a regimen based on items like fresh vegetables and whole grains can also protect you from another serious health problem, namely stroke?

Read on to find out about the latest study.

Why Stroke Awareness Is Important

Strokes might got get as much press coverage as heart attacks, but they are still a serious health issue. According to the American Stroke Association, strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in America, and they happen to 129,000 people every year in this country alone.

A stroke occurs when blood flow is cut off to the brain, usually due to a blood clot. When this happens, oxygen levels drop quickly, and without this, damage to the brain cells starts almost immediately. Even when blood flow is restored, the consequences can be long-lasting and include problems with speech, swallowing, and walking. Also, having a stroke puts someone at risk for having another in the future.

The good news is that a proper diet can help reduce your chance of a stroke, and adopting the Mediterranean diet is one way to practice a healthier lifestyle.

What The Latest Study Finds

The latest study was led by Dr. Ayesha Sherzai, a neurologist at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York. The study looked at 104,000 teachers throughout the state of California (90% of them were Caucasian and the average age was 52). This long-term study divided the women up into 5 groups, based on how closely they followed the diet.

What the study found was that—once smoking, levels of physical activity, caloric intake, and other lifestyle factors had been factored out—women who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet reduced their chances of a stroke by 20%. This is considered to be a significant reduction.

The Study In Context

Although this study is important, it is not the only one to link the Mediterranean diet to a reduced risk of stroke. The American Heart Association (AHA), another organization concerned with cardiovascular health, reports that their own research has also found that this style of eating is beneficial for both heart health and stroke. As a matter of fact, in their campaign to help reduce heart attacks and strokes by 20% by the year 2020, the AHA is specifically endorsing the Mediterranean diet as a way to keep both problems at bay.

Why The Diet Works

The Mediterranean diet is based on fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain products, fish, and healthy fats like those found in nuts and olive oils. These foods tend to be high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and monounsaturated fats, all of which have been shown to help promote the health of the heart—and the cardiovascular system as well. This eating regimen also avoids things like refined sugars and grains and unhealthy trans fats that have been implicated in the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, a build-up which can lead to both heart attacks and strokes. Because of the wide variety of foods that it offers, the Mediterranean diet is also easier to stick with than your typical “fad” diets and has been recommended not only for heart health, but for those struggling with diabetes as well.

This recent study is yet another piece of evidence to show that healthy dietary choices—such as the avoidance of processed foods and the increase of fresh vegetables, nuts, and whole grain dishes—can help reduce an individual’s chances of developing serious chronic conditions—and keeping both strokes and heart attacks at bay.

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