October 29, 2014

NEW YORK -- October 29, 2014 -- Eating Mediterranean or DASH-style diets, regularly engaging in physical activity, and keeping blood pressure under control can lower a person’s risk of a first-time stroke, according to updated guidelines published by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA).

The guideline is published in the journal Stroke.

“We have a huge opportunity to improve how we prevent new strokes, because risk factors that can be changed or controlled -- especially high blood pressure -- account for 90% of strokes,” said lead author James Meschia, MD, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida.

The updated guidelines recommend these tips to lower risk:
• Eat a Mediterranean or DASH-style diet, supplemented with nuts.
• Monitor high blood pressure at home with a cuff device.
• Keep pre-hypertension from becoming hypertension by making lifestyle changes such as getting more physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and managing your weight.
• Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.
• Visit your healthcare provider annually for blood pressure evaluation.
• If your medication to lower blood pressure doesn't work or has bad side effects, talk to your healthcare provider about finding a combination of drugs that work for you.
• Don't smoke.
• Smoking and taking oral birth control pills can significantly increase your stroke risk. If you're a woman who experiences migraines with aura, smoking raises your risk of stroke even more than in the general population.

Mediterranean-style or DASH-style diets are similar in their emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, poultry and fish. Both are limited in red meat and foods containing saturated fats, which are mostly found in animal-based products such as meat, butter, cheese and full-fat dairy. Mediterranean-style diets are generally low in dairy products and DASH-style diets emphasise low-fat dairy products.

Avoiding second-hand smoke also lowers the risk of stroke and myocardial infarctions, according to the guidelines.

The writing committee reviewed existing guidelines, randomised clinical trials, and some observational studies to develop the guideline.

SOURCE: American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

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