THURSDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Diets rich in antioxidants from fruits, vegetables and whole grains appear to lower a woman's odds for a stroke, even if she has a prior history of heart disease, new research shows.
The Swedish study, which appears Dec. 1 in the journal Stroke, involved more than 31,000 women without heart disease plus almost 5,700 women with a history of heart disease. The women, aged 49 to 83, were followed for an average of 11.5 years (for the heart disease-free group) or almost 10 years (the heart disease group).
During the follow-up, more than 1,300 strokes occurred in the heart disease-free group and more than 1,000 strokes occurred in the heart disease group.
The researchers then used dietary information to determine the women's "total antioxidant capacity (TAC)," a measurement of the power of these food-borne compounds to cut down on disease-linked "free radicals" in cells. Cell damage caused by free radicals can lead to inflammation and damage and stiffening of blood vessels.
Among women with no history of heart disease, those with the highest levels of diet-based antioxidants had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than those with the lowest levels.
Benefits extended to women who'd already suffered heart disease. Among this group, women with higher levels of dietary antioxidant capacity had up to a 57 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke compared to those with the lowest levels.
According to the study authors, fruits and vegetables contributed about 50 percent of antioxidant capacity in women with no history of heart disease who had the highest TAC. Other contributors included whole grains (18 percent), tea (16 percent) and chocolate (5 percent).
The study authors noted that the effect remained even after they accounted for other factors that often correlate with healthy diets, such as exercise or avoidance of smoking.
All rights reserved