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5 lifestyle changes 'could halve stroke risk'

5 lifestyle changes 'could halve stroke risk'
9th October 2014

Five simple lifestyle changes could allow women to more than halve their chances of having a stroke.

According to a new study, having a healthy diet, a moderate alcohol consumption, never smoking, remaining physically active and maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) could cut the risk of experiencing a stroke by 54 per cent.

The researchers studied 31,696 Swedish women with an average age of about 60. They were asked to complete a 350-item questionnaire about their diet and lifestyle and followed for an average of ten years.

A healthy BMI was considered below 25, while moderate alcohol consumption was defined as three to nine drinks per week and being physically active entailed walking or biking at least 40 minutes a day along with more vigorous exercise for at least one hour per week.

In addition, a healthy diet was defined as within the top 50 per cent of a recommended food score measuring how frequently the individuals ate healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

Only 589 women had all five healthy factors, while most had two or three of them and 1,535 had none.

There were 1,554 strokes among study participants and it was discovered that the risk of experiencing this medical condition decreased with every additional lifestyle factor.

A healthy diet was found to reduce the risk of having a type of stroke called a cerebral infarction by 13 per cent. The incidence was 28 strokes per 10,000 women per year compared to 43 strokes per 10,000 women per year among those with a less healthy diet.

Cerebral infarction is the most common cause of the condition, accounting for 80 to 85 per cent of all strokes. However, there was found to be no connection between healthy factors and hemorrhagic strokes, which make up 15 to 20 per cent of cases of the condition.

"Because the consequences of stroke are usually devastating and irreversible, prevention is of great importance," said study author Dr Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Instituet in Stockholm, Sweden. 

"These results are exciting because they indicate that a healthy diet and lifestyle can substantially reduce the risk of stroke, and these are lifestyle choices that people can make or improve."