The evidence that treatment of hypertension prevents stroke is incontrovertible. Several observations, however, suggest that improvements in the prevalence of antihypertensive treatment cannot explain all of the recent decline in stroke mortality. Changes in nutritional patterns may explain some of the observed decline. Prospective studies have demonstrated conclusively an independent, increasing risk of hemorrhagic, but not thrombotic, stroke at higher levels of alcohol use. Stroke mortality is associated inversely with fat and protein intake. Dietary sodium has been linked to stroke in ecologic studies but not in prospective studies. Ecologic studies have suggested that foods high in vitamin C and potassium protect against stroke; an inverse association of potassium intake with fatal stroke has been demonstrated in cohort studies. Two studies in humans also suggest a protective effect of serum selenium against subsequent stroke. Determination of the influence of nutrients on stroke incidence offers tantalizing opportunities for future research and possibly, intervention.
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