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Plant-based diet lowers overall stroke risk

A plant-based diet can significantly reduce the risk of stroke, according to a new study from the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.

The researchers found that individuals who eat a healthy diet primarily sourced from plants that is rich in leafy greens, whole grains, and beans – with lower levels of refined grains and added sugars – can reduce their overall risk of stroke by up to 10 percent.

“Our findings have important public health implications, suggesting that future nutrition policies to lower stroke risk should take the quality of food into consideration,” said study first author Megu Baden.

While previous studies have linked plant-based diets to a lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the same association with stroke has not been well established.

“Many studies already show that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of all kinds of diseases, from heart disease to diabetes,” said study co-author Dr. Megu Baden. “We wanted to find out if there is an association between this kind of healthy diet and stroke risk.”

For their investigation, the researchers analyzed diet and health data from more than 200,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

The individuals did not have a history of cardiovascular disease or cancer at the time of enrollment, and were followed for more than 25 years.

In addition to lowering the overall risk of stroke, a healthy plant-based diet was found to be associated with a modest reduction in risk of ischemic stroke. This is the most common type of stroke, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked. 

“Many individuals have been increasing the amount of plant-based components in their diet,” said study co-author Professor Kathryn Rexrode.

“These results show that higher intake of healthy plant-based foods may help reduce long-term stroke risk, and that it is still important to pay attention to diet quality of plant-based diets.”

The study is published in the journal Neurology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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