a groundbreaking new study that’s sure to send health-conscious guys running to
the produce market, tomatoes now are linked to lower stroke risk in men. Researchers
examining the blood levels of more than 1,000
Finnish men ages 46 to 65, found that those whose blood contained the
highest levels of lycopene had 55 percent less chance of suffering a stroke.
results, published in the October 8 issue of the journal Neurology, held true even after adjusting for the men’s age, health
and other risk factors such as smoking and obesity. Because stroke is the third
leading cause of death in this country, the fact that simply adding more
tomatoes to your diet can add years to their life is big news for men in their
middle years. Effects of lycopene on women’s stroke risk was not studied.
“the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables
a day,” study author Jouni Karppi, Ph.D. told
Healthline.com, “This would likely lead to a major reduction in the number
of strokes worldwide, according to previous research.”
tomato-based products are particularly recommended because they, “contain more
lycopene than other fruits and vegetables,” according to Dr. Karppi.
are a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation and helps guard against
the formation of blood clots that block blood flow to the brain, Jouni Karppi
of the department of medicine at the Institute of Public Health and Clinical
Nutrition at the University of Eastern Finland and lead author of the study,
News. “Eating tomatoes and tomato-based foods is associated with a lower
risk of any stroke,” Karppi said. “This study adds to the evidence that a diet
high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke.”
study followed the men for an average of 12 years, during which time 67 of them
had a stroke. Lycopene was the only
antioxidant associated with a lower risk. While researchers also checked
levels of the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and
retinol in the men’s blood, none of those were linked to a reduced stroke risk.
and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables are full of serum
carotenoids, the yellow, orange and red pigments that give produce its
vivid color and, scientists already knew, help to prevent heart disease and
stroke. The Finnish study affirms that it is lycopene, the powerful red
carotenoid found in tomatoes, that is most effective in avoiding strokes.
levels of lycopene also are found in tomato-based products, such as tomato
sauces and paste. “This study supports the recommendation of eating [more] servings
of fruits and
vegetables a day,” said Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, director of public health
initiatives at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, in an
interview with MedPage Today. For a break from eating tomatoes, she recommends
eating watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava, all rich in lycopene.
are a terrific boost to your health, they won’t prevent a stroke if your
lifestyle is unhealthy. Up to 80 percent of
strokes can be prevented. To maximize your chances of avoiding a brain attack,
follow these tips from the National Stroke Association:
Stop smoking. If you smoke, your risk of having a
stroke is automatically doubled by raising your blood pressure and making
your heart work harder.
Keep your cholesterol levels in the healthy range.
LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, can clog your blood vessels and cause a stroke.
If your overall cholesterol level is higher than 200, see a doctor.
Don’t over-indulge with alcohol. A number of studies
link high alcohol consumption to increased stroke risk. Keep your drinking
to one or two drinks per day.
Get some exercise—a pillar of a heart-healthy
lifestyle. Even 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, such as walking,
helps keep your circulation healthy.
Manage your diet. Not sure how much fat, protein and
grains is good for your heart? Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for easy
Finally, cut out the salt. Most Americans eat about 3,400 mg sodium
a day, yet the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend an upper
limit of only 2,300 mg—and just 1,500 mg a day if you’re over 51 years of
age. Read labels and season your foods with herbs and spices to cut your