Healthy Lifestyle Reduces Women's
who are non-smokers, exercise regularly, have a healthy diet, including
moderate alcohol consumption, and otherwise live a healthy lifestyle
may have a reduced risk of stroke, according to researchers from
Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health,
175,000 people die from stroke in the U.S. each year, and about the
same number are left patients permanently disabled, according to
statistics on the total of 700,000 strokes annually.
are two main types of stroke: ischemic, the more common type, in which
a blocked artery causes a lack of blood flow to the brain; and
hemorrhagic, which occurs when a ruptured blood vessel causes blood to
leak into the brain, according to experts.
individual risk factors, including smoking, exercise and body mass
index (BMI), have been linked to stroke. However, in contrast to
studies assessing risk for heart disease and diabetes, researchers have
not previously examined how the combination of these behaviors may
contribute to stroke.
Kurth, M.D., Sc.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of
Public Health, Boston, and colleagues studied the association between
healthy lifestyles and stroke risk in 37,636 women age 45 years or
older. At the beginning of the study, in 1993, the women answered
questions about their smoking habits, alcohol consumption, diet,
exercise routine and body mass index. From their responses, the
researchers gave each woman a health index score that ranged from zero
to 20, with a higher score indicating a healthier lifestyle. Healthy
behavior was defined as never smoking, consuming four to 10.5 alcoholic
drinks per week, exercising four or more times per week, having a body
mass index of less than 22 and maintaining a healthy diet. This
included consuming high levels of cereal fiber, folate and omega-3
fatty acids, a high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat and low
levels of trans fat and glycemic load.
an average of 10 years of follow-up, 450 women had strokes; 356 were
ischemic, 90 were hemorrhagic and four were undefined, the researchers
said. The 4.7 percent of women with 17 to 20 health index points had a
significantly lower risk of stroke overall and of ischemic stroke
specifically than women with zero to four health index points. This
association remained significant even when the researchers considered
some of the common consequences of unhealthy lifestyles, including high
blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
this large prospective cohort of apparently healthy women, a healthy
lifestyle was associated with a substantial and statistically
significant reduction in the risk of total and ischemic stroke with no
apparent benefit in the incidence of hemorrhagic stroke," the authors
conclude. "Our findings show the importance of healthy behaviors in the
prevention of total and ischemic stroke."
of the study, supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung and
Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute, were published in
the July 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the