Women’s lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of stroke by 20%

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Even if you are middle-aged, it is not too late to substantially reduce your risk of stroke by changing your lifestyle.

Middle-aged women who quit smoking, started doing physical exercise, maintained optimal weight and made healthy eating choices, reduced their risk of stroke by 20%. This was the result of a research published on April 9, 2020 in the journal Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association.

In general, women are more likely than men to have a stroke. The average age of first stroke in women is 75 years. Based on this information, the researchers stated that mid-life lifestyle changes could help reduce the risk of stroke among women.

“We found that switching to a healthy lifestyle, even after 50 years, has the potential to prevent stroke,” said Goodarz Danaei, Sc.D., lead author of the study and Bernard Lown, associate professor of cardiovascular health at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Women who have changed their lifestyle in middle age have reduced their long-term risk of stroke by almost a quarter and ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, by more than a third.”

The researchers analyzed the Health Study of Nurses, which includes information about the health of approximately 60,000 women, enrolled at the average age of 52 and involved in the study for an average of 26 years. They wanted to see what the risk of stroke looks like when giving up smoking, exercising 30 minutes or more of daily physical activity and gradually losing weight, for overweight women. They were also aware of the impact of diet modification, which further accentuates the consumption of fish, nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and avoids red / processed meat and alcohol.

During the 26 years of monitoring, the researchers found that:

  • 4.7% of women who did not change their lifestyle had a stroke of any kind: 2.4% had an ischemic stroke and 0.7% had a hemorrhagic attack.
  • Adopting the three non-dietary interventions – smoking cessation, daily exercise and weight loss – reduces the risk of stroke by 25% and ischemic stroke by 36%.
  • For the dietary changes maintained, the reduction of the total stroke risk by 23% was estimated.

Also, the researchers found that high consumption of fish and nuts and reduced consumption of red meat seem to have positive effects, such as a lower risk of stroke, although the degree of impact caused by these dietary changes did not was as high as that achieved by increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

Although this was an observational study that included especially middle-aged, white women, there are others who argue that proportional changes in stroke risk due to lifestyle and dietary changes may be generalized to men as well. It is also estimated that 30 minutes or more of daily physical activity can reduce the risk of stroke by 20%.

Source: here and here.

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