Living a healthy lifestyle increases the chance that you will live a longer life. And it lowers the risk of diseases like stroke and heart attack. We understand we shouldn’t smoke, should only drink alcohol moderately, should exercise, and eat well. But most people don’t know that adequate low-fat dairy intake and eating yogurt one to two times a week can reduce the chance of both heart attack and stroke in people with high blood pressure.
About 1 billion people globally have high blood pressure (HBP). It is one of the primary risk factors for stroke. Studies show that eating low-fat dairy products has positive effects on cardiovascular disease. Researchers from Boston University and Harvard University studied, specifically, the effects of yogurt on the development of diseases like stroke and heart attack in people with high blood pressure. The study was extensive with patients recording information as it occurred rather than after the fact. These forward-looking studies are the most reliable and accurate regarding their conclusions.
Researching yogurt consumption and stroke
Researchers used data from two studies. Overall, 55,898 (females) and 17,984 (males) or a total of 73,882 participants were selected from a pool of 173,000 people. These 73,882 met criteria for the study due to the diagnosis of HBP. Researchers only included participants who had HBP. They excluded participants who had a prior stroke or heart attack, cancer, diabetes, or were missing information on the quantity of dairy intake. Participants answered a questionnaire about their food intake every four years between 1980 and 2006 for one study and from 1986 to 2006 for the other study.
Yogurt reduces the risk of stroke
The results showed that hypertensive people who ate more yogurt had a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers found that people with the highest yogurt intake tended to have the most healthy lifestyles. They were more active, drank less alcohol, were less likely to smoke, and had healthier diets. People who ate 1-2 cups of yogurt per week had a 20% reduction in the chance of getting a stroke. The combination of healthy eating habits (a diet which included vegetables and fruits) and yogurt intake resulted in such a decrease.
Researchers believe that the intake of fermented dairy products lowers cardiovascular disease due to its beneficial effects on blood vessel stiffness and blood pressure. Earlier studies attributed this reduced HBP to the increase in calcium from the dairy products. However, this study found that fermented dairy products such as yogurt had an independent and favorable effect on blood vessel hardness.
Types of yogurt and types of strokes were not studied, indicating that some kinds of yogurt may have a more favorable impact on stroke prevention than others due to the different types of probiotics. Because some behaviors associated with yogurt intake would lower your risk of strokes anyway, the key take-home message is this:
- Eat yogurt twice a week
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Stick to low-fat dairy products
- Keep your blood pressure under control
- Exercise at least three times per week per your doctor’s recommendations
- Maintain a healthy weight
The first author of this study is Justin R. Buendia, Department of Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
This article has a simple outcome: people who eat 1-2 cups of yogurt per week have a 20% reduction in the chance of getting a stroke.