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Nutrition is much more important in prevention of stroke than is appreciated by most physicians. The powerful effects of statin drugs in lowering the levels of fasting cholesterol, combined with an unbalanced focus on fasting lipids (as opposed to postprandial fat and oxidative stress), have led many physicians and patients to believe that diet is relatively unimportant. Because the statins can lower fasting lipids by ≈50% to 60%, and a low-fat diet only lowers fasting cholesterol by ≈5% to 10%, this error is perhaps understandable. However, a Cretan Mediterranean diet, which is high in beneficial oils, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in cholesterol and animal fat, has been shown to reduce stroke and myocardial infarction by 60% in 4 years compared with the American Heart Association diet. This effect is twice that of simvastatin in the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study: a reduction of myocardial infarction by 40% in 6 years. Vitamins for lowering of homocysteine may yet be shown to be beneficial for reduction of stroke; a key issue is the high prevalence of unrecognized deficiency of vitamin B 12, requiring higher doses of vitamin B12 than have been used in clinical trials to date. Efforts to duplicate with supplementation the evidence of benefit for vitamins E, C, and beta carotene have been largely fruitless. This may be related to the broad combination of antioxidants included in a healthy diet. A Cretan Mediterranean diet is probably more effective because it provides a wide range of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables of all colors. © 2006 American Heart Association, Inc.



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