Volume 3, Issue 18
May 13, 2010

Best way to prevent a stroke — eat chocolate or exercise?

None of us want to have a stroke. If it doesn't kill you, it can leave you in a vegetative state or severely disabled. In this country right now there are about 6,400,000 people suffering from the effects of strokes. On average, about 610,000 people each year will be suddenly hit with a life changing first stroke.

So what's the best way to prevent a stroke? I've given you many ways to avoid strokes. But is it better to eat chocolate or exercise? Which one will prevent a stroke the best?

Well, researchers from Canada wanted to know the answer to these questions. And their findings might just surprise you. The researchers presented the findings from their meta-analysis study at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

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These researchers reported that two published studies showed that people who ate at least 50 grams of chocolate every week had a 22% reduction in stroke risk. They also had a 46% reduction in stroke mortality when compared to all those poor souls who had no chocolate. That's a considerable reduction in risk! Fifty grams of chocolate is just a little less than two ounces.

The only problem was that a third study found no value from chocolate. Senior author Gustavo Saposnik, MD, from St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto, Canada, said, "We need more prospective studies that specifically identify the type of chocolate and the amount, including the amount of flavonoids included in the composition of the chocolate, to make more valid conclusions." I think I'll call them up and volunteer for this research.

By the way, If you are curious about this, you should know that other studies have shown chocolate eaters are statistically less likely to develop heart disease as well. The thinking has been that the reduced risk is due to special nutrients called flavonoids and procyanidins. Dark chocolate in particular is very high in these protective bioflavonoids. But I must say that the best way to get the full protective effect of chocolate is to eat it right after you exercise. Here's why:

Exercise is a much more proven way to prevent strokes, heart disease, osteoporosis, senility, diabetes, and just about anything it's tested against. Take, for example, another meta-analysis on stroke prevention from 2003. This study looked specifically at exercise and stroke risk. In this case, the authors looked at the results of 23 different studies that examined the effect of exercise on stroke risk. Here's what they found:

When they compared highly active exercisers on a case by case basis to those who did not exercise, they found that the exercisers were a whopping 64% less likely to have a stroke. Even those who exercised only every now and then still showed a reduction in risk of up to 27% — just a little better than eating chocolate.

So if you aren't already exercising regularly, how about changing that right now while you can still do it. And just to make it attractive, treat yourself to a nice piece of dark chocolate right afterward. I cover the how-to's of effective exercise in articles on my website. These articles are free to my newsletter subscribers. If you're not a subscriber, you can do so here. I also recommend a great new book on exercise by my colleague Dr. Al Sears called The Doctors Heart Cure. In his book, Dr. Sears shows how even a little bit of exercise, if you do it properly, will be all you really need to get its many benefits.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Susan Jeffrey. Chocolate Linked to Lower Stroke and Stroke Mortality Risk. Medscape Medical News. February 12, 2010.

Lee CD, Folsom AR, Blair SN. Physical Activity and Stroke Risk A Meta-Analysis. Stroke. 2003;34:2475-2481.

Copyright 2010 Soundview Publishing, LLC

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