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May 08, 2014 06:07 PM EDT

Eating More Fruits And Vegetables May Lower Stroke Risk By A Third

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Eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk for stroke by almost a third, according to a recent study Reuters reported.

A new review of 20 studies - examining a total of 16,981 strokes among 760,629 participants - suggests that for every 200 grams per day of fruits and vegetables, the risk for stroke fell by 32 percent and 11 percent, respectively, Reuters reported.

"A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is highly recommended because it meets micronutrient and macronutrient and fiber requirements without adding substantially to overall energy requirements," Dr. Yan Qu, the study's senior author, said in a statement.

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked. If blood flow is stopped for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get blood and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing permanent damage. It remains the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Qu added that the findings are consistent with the current knowledge that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables should be encouraged to prevent stroke.

The findings also held up even when other factors like smoking, alcohol, high blood pressure, physical activity and body mass index were accounted for.

However, researchers cannot say for certain that eating fruits and vegetables cause fewer strokes among the participants. They note that there could be other factors that influence the results; for example, people who eat more fruits and vegetables may also lead healthier lives.

"It doesn't surprise me too much in that it seems to confirm what a lot of other studies have shown," Dr. David A. Miller, director of the Advanced Primary Stroke Center at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., told Reuters.

Miller was not involved in the study.

The findings were recently published online in Stroke.

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