Healthy Lifestyle Cuts Women’s Stroke Risk

Large, 10-year study shows big benefit to exercise and healthy diet

TUESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) — A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, no smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, and a healthy diet can help cut a woman’s stroke risk, a new U.S. study confirms.

Published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study began in 1993 with over 37,600 women, age 45 or older, who were asked about their lifestyle habits and given a “health index score” ranging from zero to 20. The higher the score, the more healthy the lifestyle.

Healthy behavior was defined as never smoking, consuming four to 10.5 alcoholic drinks per week, exercising four or more time per week, having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 22, and eating a healthy diet that included high levels of cereal fiber, folate and omega-3 fatty acids, low levels of trans fat and glycemic (blood sugar) load, and a high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat in the diet.

The women were followed for an average of 10 years. Over that time, 450 of the women suffered strokes (356 ischemic, 90 hemorrhagic, and 4 undefined). An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage in an artery reduces blood flow to the brain, while a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a ruptured blood vessel causes blood to leak into the brain.

The study found that the 4.7 percent of the women in the study with 17 to 20 health index points were at much lower risk of stroke overall and of ischemic stroke, compared women with zero-to-four health index points.

“Our findings show the importance of healthy behaviors in the prevention of total and ischemic stroke,” the study authors concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Women’s Health Information Center has more about heart disease and stroke.
(SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, July 10, 2006)
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