Finally, an easy way to prevent strokes.

Think Red: an important step toward stroke prevention

          The early symptoms of a stroke are important to know because the miraculous drugs that can break up a clot causing a stroke must be given within several hours.  These drugs may lead to complete reversal of the damages inflicted by a stroke so watch out for the signs of a stroke and call 911 quickly if they happen to you.  Here they are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Double vision, drowsiness, nausea or vomiting.

Perhaps even more important than the early signs of a stroke are the many things a person may do over a lifetime to PREVENT ever having a stroke. Here are some:

Do not smoke. There is simply no safe number of cigarettes.

Get regular physical exercise. 10,000 steps a day is a great start.

Avoid long periods of complete inactivity.

Maintain you proper weight.

Eat right: cut down on salt; eat lots of fruits and veggies; and avoid excessive calories.

Do the things that will lower your stress level and help you avoid hypertension. If you ever develop high blood pressure, work with your doctor or nurse practitioner to bring your blood pressure down and maintain it in the normal range.

Atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeats, causes one out of four strokes in people after age 80. You and your physician can consider the use of blood thinning agents if you have atrial fibrillation.

After the age of 50 it is recommended that people consider with their physician the wisdom of taking aspirin on a daily basis to prevent blood clots that can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Avoid diabetes and if you have it work compulsively to control it as it raises a person’s risk for having a stroke in a number of ways.

          But here’s the problem: it can be so difficult to do some of the above stroke prevention steps.  Stopping smoking, losing weight, lowering the stress level in one’s life and getting an elevated blood pressure down to normal can all be tough tasks.

Here’s a very easy way to lower by more than 50% your risk for a stroke.  Eat red foods that raise your lycopene levels.  It turns out that cooked tomato sauces, tomato juice and tomato soup provide high levels of the antioxidant called lycopene – much more than raw tomatoes.  One raw tomato provides 3,165 micrograms of lycopene while a cup of marinara sauce provides you with 31,663 micrograms of lycopene and there are 21,960 micrograms in just one cup of canned tomato juice.  Just one cup of watermelon provides 6,889 micrograms of lycopene.  Other sources of lycopene are sun-dried tomatoes (918 micrograms from a single slice) and half a grapefruit (918 micrograms of lycopene).

So now in addition to some very complex ways of lowering your risk for a stroke you know one very easy one: cooked tomato products and several other foods that will decrease by more than half you risk of having a stroke. Such good news! 

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia