The hidden damage of a stroke... and how to STOP it

Baseball spring training starts up this week, and everyone knows the rule when you're at the plate: three strikes and you're out.

Out in the real world, you don't always get a third strike.

When it comes to one major health risk, it could be two STROKES and you're out!

Many people survive a first stroke, but a second one will double the risk of death within two years.

Even if you do survive a stroke -- whether it's your first, second, or third -- you could face major health risks including a much higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia in the years that follow.

Now, the latest research reveals one way to bring that last risk back down.

It's an easy-to-make lifestyle change that can preserve your brain to help you avoid the dementia that's so common in stroke patients.

Even better, this same change can also help prevent another stroke!

The key is in what researchers like to call the MIND diet (because everything needs a gimmicky nickname these days).

In reality, it's very similar to the tried-and-true Mediterranean diet you've heard so much about here in House Calls. (And the acronym "MIND" actually stands for "Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.")

It combines the Mediterranean diet with the lower-salt DASH diet aimed at cutting blood pressure, which can also help cut the risk of both stroke and dementia.

At its heart, however, it's essential a very lightly modified version of the Mediterranean diet that focuses heavily on fish, olive oil, vegetables, and berries... while severely restricting red meat, butter, and cheese... and turning pastries, fried stuff, and anything you can get from a drive-thru window into "forbidden" foods.

According to the new study, stroke survivors who closely follow the basics of this lifestyle have a much slower rate of cognitive decline than those who don't stick to the diet.

That's right in line with the rest of the evidence for this diet, which finds that it can cut the risk of Alzheimer's overall by 35 percent even in people who haven't had a stroke.

There is one flaw with the diet: It allows for whole grains. For maximum benefits (including a lower risk of stroke, heart attack, and dementia), avoid ALL grains -- even whole grains -- not only because of the gluten that so many folks are sensitive to, but also because they drive blood sugar levels up (a.k.a. they have a high glycemic index).

Never had a stroke? Don't wait for one to strike to make changes! This same healthy diet can cut your risk of having one by nearly half.

That's a home run.