The Real “Magic Bullet” for Reducing Your Stroke Risk

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Filed Under: Heart Health, Stroke
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

For years my patients came to me looking for what I called the “magic bullet,” meaning a pill that could fix being overweight, smoking cigarettes, overdosing on stress and toxic emotions, and developing high blood pressure and diabetes. In fact, I wish I had a nickel for every person who’s said to me, “Doc, there must be a pill for that.”

Well, a study released in March could have many women thinking we have found the magic bullet for preventing strokes. Investigators at the University of Carolina Chapel Hill just released a new analysis of the famous Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) which found that women who took aspirin regularly had a significantly lower stroke risk.

But what they also found is that the women in the study who ate diets highest in trans-fats had a 39% increased risk for a stroke. That’s because trans-fats which are in some processed foods, like cookies, crackers, and chips raise LDL cholesterol levels and reduce HDL levels. They also increase lipoprotein(a), an especially dangerous form of cholesterol that’s hard to detect. Taking an aspirin a day won’t counterbalance this type of damage.

This news about trans-fats is one more brick in the wall for eating plant-based diet filled with vegetables as much as possible, avoiding processed foods, and selecting organic options whenever possible. I applaud cities like New York, where public policy makers have banned the use of trans-fats in restaurants.

Strokes aren’t something to take lightly. They’re a leading cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death. If you, like my own wife, have a strong family history of stroke, then I urge you to do all you can to slash your risk. If your lifestyle choices are placing you in jeopardy, there’s no time like the present to make some changes—starting with eliminating trans-fats and eating more vegetables.

Plus, here’s how to recognize the signs of a stroke, which can be very different in women than men.

Now it’s your turn: How do you hold the line on trans-fats?

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