Five key healthy lifestyle habits have been linked to a halving of stroke risk in women. The keys to preventing stroke are well within the reach of any person.
Stroke is Australia’s second biggest killer after coronary heart disease and is a leading cause of disability. It is also one disease where lifestyle plays a big role in changing a person’s risk of having a stroke. Smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, poor diet, high cholesterol and alcohol all feature highly here.
Much is known about how individual lifestyle factors can affects a person’s risk of stroke, but less is known about their combined effects.
The key habits to preventing stroke
To provide insight into how a combination of positive lifestyle factors can cut a person’s risk of stroke, Swedish researchers looked at the health and lifestyles of nearly 32,000 women who were part of a long-running observational study (Swedish Mammography Cohort).
Over 10 years, a total of 1,554 strokes occurred. Women who ate a healthy diet, drank alcohol moderately, never smoked, remained physically active and had a healthy body weight were 54 percent less likely to have a stroke compared to women with none of these habits.
The greater the number of positive lifestyle factors, the greater the reduction in stroke risk that was seen. Smoking was the biggest single lifestyle factor linked to stroke risk.
The research team defined a healthy diet as one that was in the top 50 percent of a food score that measured how often a woman ate fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Moderate alcohol intake was drinking three to nine drinks per week. Being active meant walking or cycling at least 40 minutes a day along with doing more vigorous exercise at least an hour per week. A body mass index below 25 was considered healthy.
While the study found an association between healthy lifestyle habits and stroke risk, it cannot prove a causal link, but the findings agree with the bulk of research done in this area. Only older women were included in the study, so the results cannot be applied to everyone.
What it all means
There is a lot a person can do that is in their own control that could dramatically cut their risk of having a stroke later in life.