Our Western diet we sadly know all too well can be too high in fat, salt and sugar – each of which carries their own health risk. Until menopause, women have a lower risk of stroke compared to men of similar age, but this changes after menopause and there is a much greater risk for those women who have a high fat intake.
The biggest risk comes from transfats, particularly if you consume more than 7 grams a day from processed, baked and fried foods.
Ischemic strokes are caused by blockages in blood vessels in or leading to the brain and the researchers reported positive associations between total fat intake and ischemic stroke incidence and between trans fat intake and ischemic stroke incidence. We know from previous studies that different types of fat have different effects on the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), with trans fat being identified as a risk factor but those were small scale studies. This one involved 87,230 post-menopausal women aged 50 to 79 under the auspices of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study.
During the 7 year study, 1,049 ischemic strokes occurred and the researchers looked for links between dietary fat intake of all types (saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans fat) and ischemic strokes and covered all health variables including physical activity, drug use, smoking, alcohol and hormone therapy. The top 25% of women had an average total fat intake of 86 grams a day and the lowest 25% consumed just 26 grams a day. With a 40% risk of stroke at the top end of fat intake it makes sense to monitor fat intake, and particularly trans fats to keep their levels down.
How to calculate your fat intake
If you are not sure how much fat a day you should consume, there is a handy way to determine it. The example below is based on the average woman’s requirement of 2,000 calories a day, but you can be more accurate by using your own daily calorie requirement.
1. Take the number of calories you eat each day and multiply it by 30 percent (.30). For example: 2,000 calories x .30 = 600 calories from fat
2. Divide your answer by 9 because there are 9 calories in each gram of fat. This will give you the number of grams of fat per day that should be your goal.
600 ÷ 9 = 66 grams
You might find the following articles helpful if you are concerned about strokes and heart disease: