5 Surprising Ways To Reduce The Risk Of Stroke

The most effective and well-known ways to reduce the risk of stroke can be summed up as a heart-healthy lifestyle. These would include getting enough physical activity, avoiding tobacco use, maintaining weight, moderating salt intake etc.

But studies have also suggested that certain foods, habits, and beverages may be tied to a lower risk. Here are five of them that may surprise you:

1. Sauna

You may want to go ahead and book that sauna session you've been planning for ages. A new study published in the journal Neurology found that the most frequent sauna users (four to seven times a week) were 60 percent less likely to have a stroke compared to those who took only one sauna per week.

"Saunas appear to have a blood pressure lowering effect, which may underlie the beneficial effect on stroke risk," said study author Dr. Setor Kunutsor. The heat in saunas can increase blood flow to the skin, stimulate the immune system, and promote better heart health.

2. Chocolate

Research has claimed that moderate consumption of chocolate may be linked to a lower risk of stroke. Studies have found that it can do so for both men and women. While a causal relationship has not been established as of yet, experts believe that flavonoids in chocolates act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, benefitting both the heart and the brain.

Moderate intake of dark chocolate with lower concentrations of sugar and higher concentration of cacao may be the best choice to consider. However, this is not recommended for overweight people as weight gain can increase the risk of stroke.

3. Floss

Here is another reason to stop feeling lazy about brushing and flossing at night. "It appears that good dental hygiene can do more than just keep your teeth and gums healthy — it may also lower your risk of heart disease and stroke," said lead author Dr. Souvik Sen.

The reason may be attributed to atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries which is a major risk factor for stroke. As gum health improves, the progression of atherosclerosis slows to a clinically significant degree. While studies have shown correlation, the American Heart Association has deemed the evidence inconclusive to suggest causation. 

4. Sex

Well, it does count as physical activity, doesn't it?

"Middle-aged men should be heartened to know that frequent sexual intercourse is not likely to result in a substantial increase in risk of strokes and that some protection from fatal coronary events may be an added bonus," stated a cohort study with a 20-year follow up.

The reason may be that sexual intercourse prevents the build-up of the chemical homocysteine in men. At high levels, it can increase the risk of blood clots and heart attacks.

5. Coffee

While many believe that caffeine could be a trigger for heart problems, recent studies have found coffee to be safe, even suggesting that it may help people with irregular heart rhythms.

Another 2017 study analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study and found that drinking coffee was associated with a decreased risk of developing heart failure by 7 percent and stroke by 8 percent when compared with non-coffee drinkers.