Moving, while staying home

Changing your habits can take you out of the 'stroke belt'

Other than moving, there’s not much you can do about tornadoes when you live in tornado alley. Or about floods in a flood zone. Or about hurricanes in a hurricane-prone area.

But the fact that you live in the nation’s “stroke belt”? You don’t have to sell your house and pull up stakes and leave.

You just need to eat healthier.

Reputedly the first big study linking strokes to diet came out recently, and the news was, while perhaps obvious, no less grim: We live in the middle of Stroke Central, where the South and Southeast have a 20 percent higher incidence of strokes than the rest of the country.

According to the study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, those who feast six times a week on a typically Southern diet laden with fried foods, cholesterol, sodium and sugary drinks – and light on fruits and vegetables – have a 41 percent increased risk of stroke.

Most of those indulging in “Southern” diets live in the Southeast, and blacks were said to be five times more likely than whites to do so. They’re also twice as likely to have, and die from, a stroke.

“The likelihood of suffering a stroke rises in proportion to each Southern meal in a week,” concludes the Associated Press.

Of course, other health issues arise from such diets as well, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Changing your eating habits doesn’t necessarily mean going cold turkey on Southern. That’s not going to happen anyway. But the study is a very loud wakeup call to say that if you’re eating like that on a regular basis, you need to cut back – maybe drastically.

And, as others have noted, it’s not always what you eat that gets you – it’s also how it’s prepared. When you have a choice between fried and baked, make a habit of the baked. In restaurants, you can often get salad or fruit as a side item, instead of fries or mac and cheese.

These choices add up – on your waistline and in your arteries.

You can change that, however. Imagine deciding that you’re going to make changes in your life to eliminate the risk of tornadoes, hurricanes and floods.

You can’t do it with those things, obviously – at least not without moving to another area.

But you can with strokes.

You can move out of the stroke belt and never leave home.

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