This information comes from the US, but it is likely to be highly relevant for all women on a western diet. Before menopause, women have a lower risk of stroke compared to men of similar age, but this situation reverses after menopause and women with a high fat intake at this point in their lives have a 40 percent higher incidence of clot-caused strokes than women on a low fat diet.
This finding was reported at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference and the warning bell is for women having more than 7 grams a day of trans fats, mostly found in 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 shows 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 ages 50 to 79 who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study, by answering a food frequency questionnaire when they entered the study and were then followed for an average of 7.6 years.
During that time, 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 much fat can you have?
If you are not sure of how much fat a day you take in, there is a handy way to determine it and the example below is based on the average amount that a woman needs which is a total of 2,000 calories a day, but you can be more accurate by exactly working out your daily calorie intake.
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 = 65 grams
You can use a calculator if you need to – I certainly did!
If you do want to look at changing your diet and eating more healthily to prevent a stroke then these articles will be helpful too.