The onset of menopause causes many things to emerge – including the risk of developing conditions that can increase the risk of stroke.
First, let's define the term "stroke." A strokes, which isone type of cardiovascular disease, is considered a medical emergency and needs to have prompt medical attention if you or a loved one is suffering from one. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the United States National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, strokes happen when blood stops reaching your brain, causing brain cells to die. There are two types of stroke – ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot to blocks a blood vessel to the brain, and hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. In addition, transient ischemic strokes (known as TIAS) are mini-strokes that cause the blood supply to the brain to be briefly interrupted.
HeartHealthyWomen.org reports that the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol increases as women age due to women’s longevity and loss of the protective benefits of estrogen. Furthermore, the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a set of risk factors for both stroke and heart disease, is higher in menopausal women. These risk factors include a waistline larger than 35 inches, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high triglycerides.
So what if you could make some small lifestyle changes that may lower your risk of having a stroke? Here’s one easy change for you – increase your consumption of citrus fruits and juices. A new study out of England’s Norwich Medical School found that eating citrus fruits may reduce women’s risk of strokes. The study, which was recently published in the journal Stroke, was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The Norwich researchers looked at dietary self-reports of 70,000 women who identified their food intake, especially of fruits and vegetables, periodically over a 14-year period. During this period, 1,803 strokes were recorded, with approximately half of them being caused by blood clots.
The researchers found that intake of flavonoids, which are found in fruits, vegetables, red wine and dark chocolate, did not reduce stroke risk; however, intake of flavanones, which are a subclass of flavonoids and are found in citrus fruits, did make a difference. Interestingly, vitamin C was not found to be associated with lower stroke risk, although previous studies had suggested this vitamin might protect the cardiovascular system.
The study found a 19% difference in the risk of blood-clot related strokes between women who ate the most flavanones and those who ate the least. Furthermore, women who consumed the most citrus fruits and juice had a 10% lower risk of stroke than women who didn’t consume any citrus products. Women in the highest flavanones consumed more than 470 milligrams daily. Researchers note that a typical piece of citrus fruit has 45-50 milligrams of flavanones. The researchers who conducted this study are hypothesizing that flavanones, which improve blood vessel function and reduce inflammation, may be behind the difference in the participants’ stroke levels.