Southern Diet Might Explain the 'Stroke Belt'

Study found those who ate fried, salty foods and processed meats were more likely to have strokes

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Judd and her colleagues followed up with the participants twice a year after their food surveys through April 2012 to find out about their stroke history. The researchers found that people who were in the top half for consumption of the Southern diet were about 30 percent and 12 percent more likely, respectively, than those in the bottom quartile to have had a stroke.

These differences in stroke risk were found even after the researchers took into account whether they smoked, exercised or had a history of heart disease.

It remains possible, however, that other health aspects -- such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure -- were different between these groups, either because they ate more Southern diet foods or because of other lifestyle differences that could have contributed to variations in stroke risk, Judd said.

The researchers also found that a plant-based diet could protect against strokes. The participants in the top three quartiles had between 15 percent and 26 percent lower stroke risk than those who consumed only fruits and veggies about once a week, Judd said.

There did not appear to be a relationship between the other three diets and stroke risk.

Research suggests that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, but lifestyle factors in addition to diet should also be considered, Bakris said. "There is no question that if you can exercise more and stop smoking, your stroke risk is going to be reduced dramatically," he said.

Research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more about strokes, visit the National Stroke Association.

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