Enjoy a Mediterranean Diet to Improve Vascular Health and Avoid Strokes

Approximately 795,000 strokes take place every year in the U.S., according to senior vascular surgeon at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospitals in New York, N.Y., Donna Mendes, M.D. As a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery, Mendes’ has firsthand knowledge of strokes and vascular health.

Improving your health and reducing your risk of a stroke are as simple as changing your lifestyle, particularly your diet. Avoiding a stroke means avoiding potential impairment and possible death. For instance, simply switching to a Mediterranean diet lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to cause fatty deposits to build up in the arteries.

The Mediterranean diet contains:

•    Olive or canola oil as a healthy alternative to butter and margarine. Olive oil can be used in cooking, dipping and even on bread or sandwiches as a spread.

•    Seven to 10 daily servings of fruits and veggies. Choose fresh and seasonal produce whenever possible. If you like to eat snacks during the day or at work, cut produce into small pieces, and store them in your refrigerator.

•    Whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta. In fact, eat more whole-grain products all around, including rice too. Also, choose organic dips for bread when you can.

•    Healthy nuts. These include unsalted almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts — limited to a handful per day. Use natural peanut butter without any added hydrogenated fat.

•    No salt. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to season your food or add extra flavor.

•    Fresh fish and poultry one to two times a week. Consume less fatty fish, like tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring. Grilling is the best way to prepare fish, as opposed to frying. Avoid eating or cooking with the skin on poultry.

•    Red meat, but only a few times per week. Keep in mind one portion should be the size of a deck of cards. Avoid salty and high-fat meats.

•    Low-fat dairy products like skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.

•    If your physician permits it, you can enjoy one glass of wine at dinner.

To find more information about avoiding a stroke or learn more about your vascular health, visit the Society for Vascular Surgery’s website at www.VascularWeb.org.