Chocolate is associated with a string of health benefits including lowering the risk of heart attacks, fighting stress, combating cavities, and boosting brain function. But a new study published in the journal Neurology found that men who eat chocolate every week have a lower risk of stroke than those who don't eat the sweet treat.
"While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind study to find that chocolate, may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men," said study author Susanna C. Larsson, Ph.D., with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
For the study, 37,103 Swedish men ages 49 to 75 were asked how often they ate chocolate. Researchers then identified stroke cases through a hospital discharge registry over a 10-year period and found that 1,995 of the men had suffered a first stroke. SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
Men who ate the most chocolate — about one-third of a cup of chocolate chips (63 grams) each week — had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than those who didn't eat any chocolate.
In a larger analysis of five studies that included 4,260 stroke cases, the risk for those men who ate the largest amount of chocolate was 19 percent lower than for those who consumed no chocolate. For every increase in chocolate consumption of 50 grams per week (about a quarter cup of chocolate chips), the risk of stroke decreased 14 percent.
"The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate," said Larsson. "Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure."
Other lifestyle changes that can reduce your chance of having a stroke include:
• Stop smoking. Smokers double their risk of stroke, but if they quit, their risk begins diminishing immediately.
• Keep blood pressure under control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke four to six times.
• Eat fish. One study found that women who ate more than three servings of fish a week lowered their risk of stroke by 16 percent when compared to women who ate less than one serving a week.
• Control diabetes. Diabetics are up to four times more likely to have a stroke than non-diabetics.
• Exercise. A Harvard study found that women who walked two or more hours a week lowered their risk of stroke by 17 percent compared to women who were the least active. SPECIAL: These 5 Things Flush 40 lbs. of Fat Our of Your Body — Read More.