Eating fruits and vegetables may help lower a woman's risk of having a stroke, even if she has a history of heart disease, according to study

LOS ANGELES , December 5, 2011 () – According to a Swedish study, eating fruits and vegetables may help lower a woman’s risk of having a stroke, even if she has a history of heart disease, Health Day reported on Dec. 1.

The longitudinal study involved more than 31,000 women without heart disease and nearly 5,700 women with heart disease ages 49-83. The women without heat disease were studied for an average of 11.5 years, while the women with heart disease were studied for an average of nearly 10 years.

Using each woman’s dietary information, the researchers compiled a total antioxidant capacity (TAC), which measured the ability of antioxidants found in a particular woman’s diet to reduce the number of disease-causing free radicals in cells. Free radicals can cause cell damage that leads to the stiffening of blood vessels and inflammation.

During the course of the study, women in the disease-free group suffered from more than 1,300 strokes, while women in the heart disease group had more than 1,000 strokes.

Women in the heart disease free group with the highest amount of diet-based antioxidants were 17% less likely to have a stoke than women with the lowest levels of diet-based antioxidants in their diets.

Women in the heart disease group with the highest amount of diet-based antioxidants were 57% less likely to have a stroke than women with the lowest levels of diet-based antioxidants in their diets.

Based on the findings of the study, the various sources of antioxidants in the women’s’ diets were as follows: fruits and vegetables, which accounted for roughly 50% of the antioxidants consumed; whole grains (18%); tea (16%); and chocolate (5%).

The researchers reported that the positive effect of having a high TAC remained even after they had taken other factors into account that contribute to a woman’s likelihood of developing heart disease, like exercise or smoking.

One heart expert noted that diets, not supplements, provide the best source of antioxidants.

The primary source of this article is Health Day, Norwalk, Connecticut, on Dec. 1, 2011.

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