Avoid a Stroke with Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes

Everyday 17 people in New Zealand have a stroke; most adults who become disabled have been affected by a stroke, and  more than 2000 people a year die from strokes in New Zealand [1].
In a stroke the blood supply is cut off to parts of the brain. This stops those parts of the brain from working, either temporarily or permanently. The brain controls all the body, so when one part of the brain stops working, the part of the body it controls will also stop working.

The consequences of suffering a stroke can be distressing, not only for the sufferer, but also for the family, whanau and friends of the sufferer. It is definitely something you want to avoid if at all possible. There are many ways you can  give yourself the best chances of never suffering a stroke.

Lack of exercise and smoking will make you more likely to have a stroke; so get out for a brisk walk every day and incorporate other exercise in to your life, and stop smoking right now (click here for more help on quitting smoking). Excessive alcohol increases your risk of having a stroke [1], so cut down or cut it out; the few nutrients that can be found in alcohol can also be found in vegetables.

People who eat few fruits [2] and vegetables are at a high risk of suffering a stroke [3-6]. Aim to cover half your plate with veggies, the more colourful the better. Aim to have vegetables, raw or cooked, twice a day instead of twice a week. A lunchtime soup with lots of vegetables can be a great way to  get the nutrients into your body.
Vegetables and fruit contain lots of antioxidant nutrients which have a protective effect on the body. Some antioxidants have been shown to be especially helpful in reducing the risk of getting a stroke; these are: beta-carotene [3], Vitamin E [7, 8] and vitamin C. People who have strokes are likely to have low levels of Vitamin C [8-11]. Smokers who have had a stroke have particularly low levels of vitamin C [12]. Vitamin E is high in nuts, seeds and good quality cold pressed oils. The B vitamins also found in nuts, and high in whole grains may decrease risks of stroke [11]. Co enzyme Q10, which is a protective antioxidant, has a role in energy production and is often low in people who suffer from cardivascular problems. Statin medication, which is used to decrease high cholesterl levels, lowers co enzyme Q10 levels. For these reasons Co enzyme Q10 is now recommended for people who take statins. Click here to read more about cardivasular problems and CoQ10.

There is some research that tea, which contains polyphenols, may help stop strokes occurring [13]. But be careful to avoid drinking tea with your meals as it will deplete your absorption of nutrients, especially iron.
It is important to get sufficient Iron and other minerals, such as magnesium, and calcium, in your diet to help prevent a stroke [11]. If I do recommend supplements, I use the Entire Katoa Food State Supplements for optimum absorption and bioavailability.

Salt should not be added to your food if you want to avoid a stroke [1, 11, 14]; also avoid any food high in salt, such as most processed and fast foods.

Check your blood pressure regularly, a high blood pressure shows you are at risk of having a stroke. If you follow these dietary and lifestyle changes it will help decrease your blood pressure as well. Seek advice if your blood pressure is high.

There are many herbs which can be used to regulate blood pressure and support your cardiovascular system [15]. 


Contact Bay Health Clinic today to find out more or to book a consultation with one of our Naturopaths; if needed they will also prepare tailored herbal medicines and recommend supplements to help you feel your best.  Call 07 571 3226 or email us: ask@bayhealth.nz




1. 10 key facts about Stroke in NZ [http://www.stroke.org.nz/about_stroke/about_stroke.html]

2. Johnsen SP, Overvad K, Stripp C, Tjonneland A, Husted SE, Sorensen HT: Intake of fruit and vegetables and the risk of ischemic stroke in a cohort of Danish men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 2003, 78(1):57-64http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/78/1/57

3. Hak AE, Ma J, Powell CB, Campos H, Gaziano JM, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ: Prospective Study of Plasma Carotenoids and Tocopherols in Relation to Risk of Ischemic Stroke. Stroke 2004, 35(7):1584-1588http://stroke.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/35/7/1584

4. Sauvaget C, Nagano J, Allen N, Kodama K: Vegetable and Fruit Intake and Stroke Mortality in the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Life Span Study. Stroke 2003, 34(10):2355-2360 http://stroke.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/34/10/2355

5. Ascherio A: Antioxidants and stroke. Am J Clin Nutr 2000, 72(2):337-338http://www.ajcn.org

6. Padayatty SJ, Levine M: Fruit and vegetables: think variety, go ahead, eat! Am J Clin Nutr 2008, 87(1):5-7http://www.ajcn.org

7. Yochum LA, Folsom AR, Kushi LH: Intake of antioxidant vitamins and risk of death from stroke in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr 2000, 72(2):476-483 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/72/2/476

8. Voko Z, Hollander M, Hofman A, Koudstaal PJ, Breteler MMB: Dietary antioxidants and the risk of ischemic stroke: The Rotterdam Study. Neurology 2003, 61(9):1273-1275 http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/61/9/1273

9. Sanchez-Moreno C, Dashe JF, Scott T, Thaler D, Folstein MF, Martin A: Decreased Levels of Plasma Vitamin C and Increased Concentrations of Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Markers After Stroke. Stroke 2004, 35(1):163-168http://stroke.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/35/1/163

10. Myint PK, Luben RN, Welch AA, Bingham SA, Wareham NJ, Khaw K-T: Plasma vitamin C concentrations predict risk of incident stroke over 10 y in 20 649 participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer Norfolk prospective population study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008, 87(1):64-69 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/1/64

11. Hajjar I, Kotchen T: Regional Variations of Blood Pressure in the United States Are Associated with Regional Variations in Dietary Intakes: The NHANES-III Data. J Nutr 2003, 133(1):211-214http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/133/1/211

12. Schleicher RL, Carroll MD, Ford ES, Lacher DA: Serum vitamin C and the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency in the United States: 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Am J Clin Nutr 2009, 90(5):1252-1263 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/90/5/1252

13. Negishi H, Xu J-W, Ikeda K, Njelekela M, Nara Y, Yamori Y: Black and Green Tea Polyphenols Attenuate Blood Pressure Increases in Stroke-Prone Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats. J Nutr 2004, 134(1):38-42 http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/134/1/38

14. Umesawa M, Iso H, Date C, Yamamoto A, Toyoshima H, Watanabe Y, Kikuchi S, Koizumi A, Kondo T, Inaba Y et al: Relations between dietary sodium and potassium intakes and mortality from cardiovascular disease: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risks. Am J Clin Nutr 2008, 88(1):195-202 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/88/1/195

15. Bartram T: Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: Robinson Publishing; 1995.