All the cholesterol and saturated fat in animal products can also clog the arteries supplying blood to your brain, which can lead to strokes. Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States—after heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Strokes kill around 130,000 Americans every year—that’s one person every four minutes.
Going meat-free can reduce your risk of suffering from strokes. Researchers have found that a pure vegetarian diet is the only lifestyle change that has been consistently shown to reverse atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries that often causes strokes and heart attacks. In fact, while the average cholesterol level in the U.S. is 210 (10 points above the health risk threshold set by the American Heart Association), the average vegetarian’s cholesterol level is 161, and the average vegan’s cholesterol level is 133.
Vegetarians and vegans also tend to have significantly lower blood pressure than meat-eaters do, which makes them far less likely to suffer from strokes. Researchers who tracked 72,000 women over a period of 14 years have confirmed that those who adhered to diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains were less likely to suffer from strokes in comparison with those who ate the typical American diet, heavy with meat, dairy products, and eggs.