Written by Tatjana Djakovic, Staff Writer. In a study of 36,715 women, those with the highest intakes of antioxidants had a 46-57% lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

Stroke is a leading cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.  Stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts.  When this extremely dangerous situation happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs and begins to die. (1)

Fortunately, preventive measures such as diet and supplement intake can decrease the risk of stroke.  Dietary measures include the consumption of antioxidants, which are naturally occurring chemicals that inhibit a harmful process that occurs in the body known as oxidative stress. (2)

The current study examines the overall effect from all dietary antioxidants known as TAC (total antioxidant capacity) in women with and without a prior history of cardiovascular disease. The study consisted of 31,035 women with no prior history of stroke or heart disease and 5,680 women with a prior history between the ages of 49 to 83 years.  (3) The amount of total antioxidant capacity (TAC) was measured via a food frequency questionnaire that indicated how frequently specific foods were consumed, as well as the ORAC value, which measures the potency of an antioxidant.  (4) This study is unique because other studies only analyzed a limited number of antioxidants, while this one took into account all antioxidants present in the diet, including thousands of compounds that are obtained from a usual diet.

During a 12-year follow up, the women with no prior history of cardiovascular disease were divided into three groups, depending on the total antioxidant capacity (TAC).  Those with the highest TAC had a significant 17% lower risk of total stroke. For women with a prior history of cardiovascular disease, those with the highest amount of TAC had a significant 46% to 57% lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke. (3)

The findings suggest that consumption of foods rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables and vitamins greatly decreases the risk of having a stroke in women with or without a prior history of cardiovascular disease.

Source: Rautiainen, Susanne, et al. “Total Antioxidant Capacity of Diet and Risk of Stroke.” Stroke 43.2 (2012): 335-340.

© 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.

Posted August 21, 2012.

Tatjana Djakovic, MS, graduated from Roosevelt College in 2011, with concentration in biochemistry.  Her research was in determining antioxidants and macronutrients in herbal teas.  She is originally from Gospic, Croatia and currently resides in Carol Stream, IL.


  1. Stroke, see the American Stroke Association website.
  2. Lopez AD, Mathers CD, Ezzati M, Jamison DT, Murray CJ. Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systemic analysis of population health data. 2006. Lancet. 367:320-326.
  3. Larsson S., Rautiainen S., Virtamo J., Wolk A., Total Antioxidant Capacity of Diet and Risk of Stroke: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort of Women. Stroke AHA. 43:335-340.
  4. Young I., Measurement of Total Antioxidant Capacity. 2001,  J Clin Pathol. 54:339.