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While Southern diets are full of “comfort foods,” there’s nothing comforting about an increased risk of stroke. Foods typically associated with a classic Southern diet include fried chicken, fried potatoes, bacon, ham and sweet tea.

According to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2013, these diets have three major factors working together to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Such fatty foods are high in cholesterol; sugary drinks are linked to diabetes; salty foods can lead to high blood pressure.

Previous research has shown that Southerners are about 20 percent more likely to have a stroke than those living in other parts of the country. So what’s a Southerner to do? Integrating fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains into your diet at least five times a week is a great start…and may reduce your risk of stroke by 29 percent.

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