Southern Diet Might Explain the 'Stroke Belt'

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Deep-fried chicken and other scrumptious Southern fare may taste great, but it's not so great for the heart, a new study finds.

Researchers say that diets that are heavy in fried and salty foods could be the most dangerous in terms of stroke risk.

The team conducted a nationwide survey of more than 20,000 white and black adults aged 45 and up and identified five common dietary patterns. They kept in touch with the participants over the next six to 10 years to find out which ones had a stroke.

The people who said they ate foods such as fried chicken and fried potatoes, processed meats and salty greens nearly every day were about 30 percent more likely to have a stroke than people who rarely consumed these foods.

In addition, black people and people in the southern states most frequently dined on this type of menu, which could help explain why blacks have higher stroke risks than whites and why this region of the United States is known as the "stroke belt."

"The Southern diet is probably the most commonly cited explanation that people give for stroke risk, but unfortunately, until this study was put together, there was not a way to look at a large enough sample to see," said study author Suzanne Judd, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The findings were to be presented Thursday at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting in Honolulu.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and there are about 800,000 strokes every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Black people are about twice as likely as whites to have a first stroke and are more likely die from a stroke.

"I tell my patients that if they're going to have fried foods, once or twice a month is OK, but avoid having more," said Dr. George Bakris, director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Hypertension Center.

Fried and other characteristically Southern foods could pack a triple punch in terms of stroke risk, Bakris explained.

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SOURCE: HealthDay News
Carina Storrs
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