Mediterranean Diet Cuts Stroke Risk In Women

The journal Circulation in 2009 reported that the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of stroke in women by 13%. This supplements our prior knowledge that the healthy diet is associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease in both men and women.

Researchers in Boston analyzed the records of 74,886 middle-aged women in the Nurses’ Health Study to deteremine how closely they followed a Mediterranean diet pattern. They followed participants’ health status for 20 years, noting how many women developed stroke, coronary heart disease, and “cardiovascular death” (fatalities from strokes and coronary heart disease combined).

Compared with the women who adhered minimally to the Mediterranean diet pattern, the women with highest compliance had 13% fewer strokes. Consistent with earlier studies, the Mediterranean dieters had 39% lower risk of cardiovascular death and 29% lower risk for coronary heart disease (again, comparing the women with highest and lowest compliance).

Take-Home Points

To gain the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, consider making changes to the way you eat.

Here are the characteristics of the traditional Mediterranean diet:

  • It maximizes natural whole foods and minimizes highly processed ones
  • Small amounts of red meat
  • Less than four eggs per week
  • Low to moderate amounts of poultry and fish
  • Daily fresh fruit
  • Seasonal locally grown foods with minimal processing
  • Concentrated sugars only a few times per week
  • Wine in low to moderate amounts, and usually taken at mealtimes
  • Milk products (mainly cheese and yogurt) in low to moderate amounts
  • Olive oil as the predominant fat
  • Abundance of foods from plants: vegetables, fruits, beans, potatoes, nuts, seeds, breads and other whole grain products

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Fung, Teresa, et al. Mediterranean diet and incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke in women. Circulation, 119 (2009): 1,093-1,100.

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