Tart cherries benefits: Good news gets better

New research shows reduction in stroke risk in addition to other benefits

two cherries

New research on tart cherries shows that the fruit reduces stroke risk in addition to providing cardiovascular benefits.

According to new animal research from the University of Michigan Health System, a diet rich in tart cherries not only provides cardiovascular benefits, but can also reduce the risk of stroke associated with a common class of drugs prescribed for metabolic syndrome. Because studies have shown that long-term use of these drugs can increase the risk of stroke, tart cherries may prove to be an effective alternative or addition.

Tart cherries benefits compared to Actos

Researchers compared the effect of tart cherries and the drug Actos in stroke-prone rats by measuring the animals’ systolic blood pressure as well as locomotion, balance and coordination, all of which can be affected by a stroke.

By putting the rats through various physical tests, researchers found that, compared to Actos, tart cherry intake significantly improved balance and coordination, while lowering blood pressure.

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What are the signs of a stroke?

Acting quickly is a key to recovery

stopwatch-strokeA stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. Without oxygen from the blood, that part of the brain starts to die. The part of the body controlled by the damaged area of the brain then stops working properly.

According to Dr. Eric Adelman, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, brain damage can begin within minutes of experiencing a stroke, so it is important to know the symptoms of stroke and to seek immediate treatment.

Call 911 immediately if you suspect stroke

“If you or someone you know is having a stroke, the first thing to do is to call 911,” Dr. Adelman says. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability. “If a stroke patient is given clot-busting medication, called tPA, within 4.5 hours, their chances for recovery increase.”

Although the majority of a stroke patient’s recovery happens within the first year, “With intense rehabilitation, a patient may continue to recover after the first year,” says Dr. Adelman. Younger individuals who suffer a stroke tend to have better recovery results.

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Preventing stroke

Lifestyle changes that can help

vegetables and shrimp in bowl

Eating healthy food is one way to help prevent stroke

Making changes in your lifestyle today can help reduce your chances of experiencing future health issues, such as stroke. For example, “Blood pressure is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors in connection with stroke,” says Dr. Eric Adelman, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan. And there are other lifestyle changes that can help in preventing stroke and improve your overall health:

  • Manage diabetes. Keep your blood sugar levels within a target range.
  • Take aspirin or a blood thinner if recommended by your doctor.
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you.
  • Limit alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Raise your heart rate by getting at least 30 minutes of exercise (walking, swimming, cycling, etc.) on most days of the week.
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in cholesterol, saturated fats and salt.

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University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.

Diabetes and heart disease – what’s the connection?

Today is American Diabetes Alert Day

finger_stick_diabetesIs there a connection between diabetes and heart disease? High levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, are often found in patients with diabetes. However, Dr. Peter Arvan of the University of Michigan Department of Internal Medicine says that those with diabetes also often have low levels of the good cholesterol (HDL), as well as high levels of triglycerides — both of which are factors that could also lead to heart disease and stroke.

Low levels of HDL and high levels of triglycerides can be improved by weight loss, says Dr. Arvan. “In addition to diet and exercise,” he says, “diabetes patients can also experience weight loss with certain (but not all) medications that they take for the disease.”

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