Mediterranean diet reduces chances of having a stroke

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Heart and Stroke Education Symposium was held Tuesday at Brescia University College.

“Stroke Prevention: It’s All Greek To Me” discussed stroke prevention and the benefits of a Mediterranean diet.

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, over 50,000 Canadians suffer strokes every year and 60 per cent are women. Strokes are also common in young adults and the elderly and cost Canadians approximately $2.7 billion annually.

David Spence, the event’s featured speaker, is a scientist at the Robarts Research Institute and author of How to Prevent Your Stroke. His presentation discussed how following a Mediterranean diet can prevent strokes.

“What patients can do for themselves is more important than what their doctor can do for them,” Spence said. “Compared to the American Heart and Stroke Foundation diet, the Mediterranean diet can reduce strokes by 60 per cent in four years.”

“I wanted to be a part of this [symposium] since last year,” said Eliana Witchell, a fourth-year food and nutritional sciences student at Brescia and one of the symposium’s co-ordinators.

“It’s really rewarding to educate people and bring a speaker who knows what they’re talking about,” she said.

According to Spence, Greece and Italy’s populations have longer life expectancies than North Americans. This is largely due to their traditional dietary patterns.

The Mediterranean diet is mainly vegetarian but contains small amounts of meat. It favours fish, a high intake of fruits and vegetables, and increased use of olive and canola oil. Olive oil, the main lipid in the Mediterranean diet, can lower blood pressure more than the sunflower oil used in most Western diets.

“The problem [in North America] is we eat too much meat,” Spence said. “Our ancestors are hunter-gatherers. I don’t think we’re supposed to drive to Loblaws and eat meat every day.”

“Meat isn’t just beef,” Spence said. “Meat is anything with eyes, a face, or a mother. They all have the same amount of cholesterol. What makes fish better is that it has beneficial oils.”

To obtain sufficient protein intake, Spence advises combining grains and legumes, as well as consuming egg whites.

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