Did you know women are more likely to have a stroke than men? And women are also more likely to suffer from a permanent disability or die from a stroke?

The good news is we can do something to lower our risk.

Data analyzed and published in the journal Stroke found that lifestyle changes — even later in life — can lower women’s risk for stroke.

The study looked at nearly 60,000 women, who were an average of 52 years old at the start of the study. They were followed for 26 years. Researchers found quitting smoking, being physically active for 30 minutes (or more) a day and losing weight were associated with a 25 percent lower overall stroke risk.

In addition, doing those three things was associated with a 36 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke. Ischemic is the most common type, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.

If you add eating a healthy diet, the participants lowered their risk from stroke by 23 percent. That healthy diet included eating more fish (think salmon and tuna), more whole grains (brown rice instead of white; whole-wheat bread instead of white), and more fruits and vegetables. Participants ate less processed meats (bacon, sausage, deli meat) and had fewer alcoholic drinks.

You don’t have to wait until next February to “Go Red for Women” and think about heart healthy habits. Make some simple switches to boost the fiber in your diet.

We need 25 to 35 grams a day. A cup of raspberries can provide 8 grams. Switch from a lower-fiber cereal to oatmeal. Choose a snack of grapes or sliced melon cubes instead of a cookie. All these little decisions add up to healthy lifestyle changes.

Take a 30-minute walk, and add some strength training to your routine. My friend does a 20-second plank, 12 pushups and 35 squats throughout her day. She does those on her break while working from home. Run up your stairs, if you have them at home. Exercise doesn’t have to be at a gym or continuous. It’s more about including it in your daily consciousness.

It’s never too late to get started.


Q: Can peppermint oil help my irritable bowel syndrome?

A: Maybe; maybe not. While a handful of small studies suggest that peppermint oil capsules may help lessen abdominal pain in people with IBS, the results of a larger randomized, controlled trial do not agree.

That study was published in 2019 in the journal Gastroenterology. The study randomly assigned nearly 200 people to take either 182 milligrams of a peppermint oil capsule (enteric-coated) or a placebo daily. At the end of the eight-week trial, there was no significant change in abdominal pain or overall symptoms in either group.

IBS is characterized by bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea and/or constipation. A low-FODMAP diet, to reduce inflammation, often helps.

Strawberry Banana Bread Muffins

It’s fresh strawberry season in Santa Barbara County. Here’s a muffin recipe to help you use up too-ripe bananas and incorporate the best of the strawberry season. The recipe is made healthier with the addition of flaxseed, whole-wheat flour and oats.


» 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

» ¼ cup warm water

» 1¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour

» ¼ cup rolled oats

» 1 teaspoon baking powder

» ½ teaspoon baking soda

» Pinch of salt

» ⅓ cup oil (coconut, olive or avocado)

» ½ cup maple syrup

» 1 medium banana, mashed

» 1 tablespoon vanilla

» 2 teaspoon white vinegar

» 2 cups strawberries, diced


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a muffin tin, or use muffin liners. In a small bowl, combine flaxseed and water, and mix well. Set aside to thicken. In a large mixing bowl, combine whole-wheat pastry flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix, and then set aside. Add oil, maple syrup, mashed banana, vanilla and vinegar to the bowl with the flaxseed mixture, and mix well.

Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients, mixing until well incorporated. Fold in the diced strawberries. Fill the muffin cups with the batter, and bake for 20 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Allow muffins to cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.


Makes 12 muffins

Per muffin: 165 calories; 2 grams protein; 25 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated); 3 grams fiber; 11 grams sugar; 241 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.