When patients come for nutrition counseling, they rarely mention that they want to lower their risk of stroke. Some people may not realize that their medical conditions and risk factors indicate they are at high risk for having a stroke.
A stroke, which is a sudden lack of blood flow to the brain, can affect anyone at any time of life. However, those at the highest risk are people over the age of 65, women between the ages of 45 and 54 and very young children. Other conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, genetics and smoking, can also increase a person’s risk.
Eating less sodium can help control or prevent high blood pressure, and that can help lower the risk of stroke. Did you know half of the sodium we eat comes from these 10 main food types: bread/rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, fast food/pizza, fresh and processed poultry, soups, sandwiches such as cheeseburgers, cheese, pasta dishes, meat casserole dishes and snack foods such as chips and pretzels.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of Americans ages 2 years old or older eat too much sodium. A good guide is to have no more than 2,300 milligrams sodium per day; however, people with certain conditions need less, so please ask your doctor what amount of sodium is best for you.
Nutrient-rich foods that do not contribute sodium to the diet include fresh, frozen and dried fruit; fresh vegetables, unseasoned frozen vegetables and no salt added canned vegetables; cooked whole grains such as brown rice, whole grain pasta and oatmeal; and fresh meats, fish and poultry without added flavors or broths.
One way to reduce your reliance on processed foods is to make some basic recipes at home using low sodium products or fresh ingredients, such as:
- Prepare a basic tomato sauce low in fat and sodium – it can be a base to make spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, chili and homemade pizza sauce
- Roast chicken, turkey breast or top round roast beef and use in place of processed meats; and
- Prepare extra portions of simple soups such as tomato, chicken noodle or lentil soup and freeze to keep on hand for a quick lunch or dinner.
Look at some of your favorite recipes and halve the amount of salt that you use in them; it will probably taste fine. Also, when you eat out, ask for unsalted vegetables, try oil and vinegar for dressing and check out the menu online for nutrition information before you go.
Lastly, work with your primary care provider to control your blood pressure; this will go a long way toward reducing your risk of stroke. Carroll Hospital Center’s nutrition counseling services can also help you figure out ways to reduce sodium in your diet.
Jean Daniello, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E., L.D.N., provides nutrition counseling services at Carroll Hospital Center.