Female stroke risk reduced by healthy living

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Researchers in America say that women can significantly reduce their risk of a stroke by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

That they say entails not smoking, moderate consumption of alcohol (between 4 and 10.5 drinks per week), exercise 4 or more times per week, a body mass index less than 22, and a diet high in cereal fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids, with a high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat, and low in trans fat and glycemic load.

In other words no smoking, drink alcohol moderately, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet.

A healthy lifestyle has already been associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease but little is known about its association with stroke risk.

According to a new study by Dr. Tobias Kurth, of Brigham and Woman's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues their findings highlight the importance of healthy behaviors in the prevention of stroke.

Kurth says however the benefit depends on the stroke subtype and they only saw a beneficial effect on ischemic stroke, the most common form of stroke, but not on hemorrhagic stroke."

An ischemic stroke results from a blockage of an artery supplying blood to the brain, while a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel breaks and causes bleeding into the brain.

Approximately 700,000 strokes occur each year and 25% end in death and as many are left with a permanent disability.

Kurth and his team examined a combination of lifestyle factors that possibly play a role in the prevention of stroke such as smoking, exercise and body weight.

Using data taken from the Women's Health Study, the researchers analyzed information on 37,636 women, aged 45 years and older and found over an average 10 years of follow-up, a total of 450 strokes occurred among the women and the majority of those were ischemic.

They were able to see that women with the healthiest lifestyles, based on their scores on a health index that took smoking, drinking, exercise, body mass index and diet into consideration, were 55 percent less likely to experience a stroke than those with the lowest health index scores.

The healthiest women, who made up five percent of the study group, were 71 percent less likely to experience an ischemic stroke but no such beneficial effect was seen for hemorrhagic stroke.

The researchers say the reduced risk of stroke from a healthy lifestyle was evident among women of all ages, and the benefit remained apparent even after taking into account various biological factors that may otherwise have contributed to the women's risk of stroke, such as a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Kurth says the findings demonstrate that simple lifestyle modifications may help to reduce the risk of strokes.

The study is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, July 10, 2006.

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