By Synovia Simons, MS, RDN, LDN


Did you know that in America, every 4 seconds, someone has a stroke, and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke?In the U. S, stroke is the 5th leading cause of death, and because of the damage it causes to brain tissue, it is the leading cause of severe disability.1 A stroke occurs when the vessels that carry blood to the brain are blocked or rupture, causing brain cells to die.2 Anyone can be affected by a stroke, so it is vital to know what you can do to lower your risk.

Some factors are unchangeable such as age, gender, or ethnicity. However, lifestyle behaviors like smoking, alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet can be changed and managed to reduce your risk. Other major factors you can control are high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Changing your lifestyle can be challenging, but focusing on one change at a time can help. Let us focus on your diet. Try increasing your fresh food intake while decreasing your processed food intake. Think about your current diet. Do you do any of the following?

  1. Do you eat at least 4 to 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily? Be sure to include different colors of fruit & vegetables to brighten your plate and for a variety of nutrients.
  2. Did you know that you need at least 5 ounces of protein daily? Consume different types of protein such as lean meat, nuts, fish, beans, & poultry.  It is more beneficial to bake and grill more and to fry less.
  3. Do you eat at least 6 ounces of grains daily? Don’t forget to make half of your grains whole, daily such as brown rice, pasta, and bread.
  4. Do you eat dairy or dairy-alternative foods? You want to consume 3 cups daily and focus more on low-fat yogurt and milk.

Consider what changes you can make today to change your lifestyle. You can lower your risk simply by eating various natural foods, reducing your sodium and fat intake, moving more. Moreover, these behaviors will also help manage your cholesterol and blood pressure.

Do you know the signs and symptoms of a stroke? Would you recognize if someone was having a stroke? It is essential to know when a stroke is happening because you have to act F.A.S.T.  Below are the steps to identify a stroke. These could help your life or the life of a loved one.

Face drooping: Ask them to smile. Does one side droop?

Arm weakness: Ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech difficulty: Ask them to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?

Time to call 911: Dial 911 immediately if you notice any of these signs.

What if you’ve had a stroke? Now what? Stroke affects people differently, and the effects are determined by the location of the blockage in the brain.  Common side effects of stroke are speech and language problems and swallowing difficulty or dysphagia. Swallowing difficulty can decrease your consumption when nutrition is important to recovery.  Your doctor and speech pathologist may give you a special diet to follow to help with swallowing. It is essential to follow any treatment plan developed by your speech pathologist and doctor. Below are some standard precautions to help with swallowing difficulties.

  1. Sit up straight when eating or drinking.
  2. Take small bites and sips.
  3. Take your time eating and drinking.
  4. Be sure to clear all food from your mouth.

About 80% of strokes are preventable through altering lifestyle behaviors.1,2  What can you do to decrease your risk or to prevent your next stroke? 

If you have questions or concerns about nutrition after having a stroke, contact your Neighborly Licensed Dietitian, Synovia Simons, at 727-542-3896.


  1. Stroke Statistics & Maps. Stroke Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed 4 May 2021.
  2. About stroke. Effects of Stroke. American Stroke Association, Accessed 4 May 2021.