How many times have we heard that "you are what you eat?" That may be especially true for residents of seven Southern states that have earned the title of the Stroke Belt because residents there are at a much higher risk of stroke than people who live in other states.
According to a study presented at a meeting of the International Stroke Association, you may be able to blame diet for the increased stroke risk. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that people who consumed the most Southern food – dishes such as deep-fried chicken and sweet tea – were at a 41 percent increased risk of stroke compared to people who rarely ate this food.
The Southern diet appears to be particularly dangerous for African-Americans, with the increased risk of stroke at 63 percent, the researchers said.
The stroke risk was high even for people who didn't smoke and were physically active, which indicates that diet may plan a critical role.
The researchers looked at the health records of nearly 21,000 black and white American who were over 45 and participating in a national health study between 2003 and 2007.
They found five eating patterns ranging from the Southern diet, which emphasizes fried foods and processed meat to the plant-based diet, which features lots of fruit, vegetables and legumes.
People most likely to consume the Southern diet lived in the seven Stroke Belt states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — as well as Louisiana, Delaware, Michigan and Illinois.
There is good news here and that is that the study shows that there may be something very simple you can do to lower your risk of stroke: eat a healthier diet. And lay off the fried chicken!