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An Antioxidant Rich Diet May Reduce the Risk of CVD and Stroke for Women

A recent study from researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows that eating a balanced diet high in antioxidants may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hemorrhagic stroke.

The findings were published online ahead of print on December 1, 2011, in the journal Stroke.

Data from the Swedish Mammography Cohort was examined. This study included 31,035 women without CVD and 5,680 women with a history of CVD. The participants’ ages ranged from 49 to 83 years at the onset of the study.

The women were given a food frequency questionnaire to determine their diet. The researchers used oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) values to calculate total antioxidant capacity (TAC). ORAC is a widely accepted measurement of antioxidant values in food. TAC measures the effectiveness of antioxidants in different foods at fighting free-radicals and preventing disease.

Follow-up for the study took place from September 1997 to December 2009, during which time 1,322 strokes were recorded in the CVD free group and 1,007 strokes were recorded in the CVD group.

The researchers noted that the women who consumed foods with the most antioxidants had a 17% lower risk of having a stroke than the women who consumed the lowest amount of antioxidant rich foods. They also found that women with a previous history of CVD who consumed the highest amount of antioxidant rich foods were 57% less like to suffer a hemorrhagic stroke.

Antioxidants are essential for good health because they combat free radicals, which break down important cells in your body and can lead to cancer, heart disease, and a variety of other health risks.. Free-radicals can occur as a result of smoking, environmental factors, or even just from your diet.

The lesson to be taken from this study is that a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important for good heart health and a lower risk of stroke. If you know your diet could use a little bit more of these healthy foods, start with small changes like adding fruit to your cereal in the morning. If you're really finding it impossible to improve your diet, consider taking a high quality antioxidant supplement.

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