IF YOU LOVE the Mediterranean-style diet and are concerned about the dangers of strokes, rejoice! This is good vascular health news for you. A 2011 study found that the consumption of olive oil — such as is common in a Mediterranean-style diet — might reduce the risk of stroke in older adults.
The study followed more than 7,000 European participants over five years. It found that participants who used olive oil “intensively” in their diets were 41 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who never used olive oil. This percentage was calculated even after researchers accounted for other stoke-related factors such as diet, physical activity, body mass index, and risk factors related to stroke.
WHY OLIVE OIL
Researchers believe the ways and means of olive oil’s vascular benefits are complex. First and foremost, though olive oil contains fat, it’s a good type of fat. Called monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, these types of fats in olive oil lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol). Next, researchers believe that olive oil is commonly used in place of other ingredients with damaging fats, like butter’s saturated fats or margarine’s trans fats. Lastly, olive oil is usually paired with healthy vegetables, leafy greens, shellfish, and other lean meats, such as with traditional Mediterranean-style diets, which benefits your health as well.
NOT A MAGIC CURE
However, researchers do caution that olive oil is not a cure-all and it likely does not act alone. In short, you can’t simply add olive oil to your diet while ignoring all other risk factors and expect to be safe from strokes. Daily exercise, a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, and avoiding risk factors such as smoking and alcohol are all still of vast importance for good vascular health.
This column is sponsored by Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida.
column by IRFAN SIDDIQUI DO, FACC, FSCAI
BIO: Dr. Siddiqui is a board-certified interventional cardiologist and a practicing physician at the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida. Dr. Siddiqui is also an associate professor with the UCF College of Medicine. He takes pride in taking an integrated approach for his patients to provide comprehensive, consistent care. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (863) 42-HEART and schedule a consultation with Dr. Siddiqui.