Girl in FieldLeading a healthy lifestyle can cut the risk of stroke in half for women. A longitudinal study from the Karolinska Instituet in Stockholm investigated how five healthy lifestyle factors affected the risk of stroke in women. The findings indicate that a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise can significantly limit the risk of stroke.

The researchers surveyed approximately 31,700 Swedish women with an average age of 60 years, monitoring the women for an average of 10 years. The women completed a 350-item questionnaire that asked them about five healthy lifestyle factors. A healthy lifestyle includes:

  • A diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
  • 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day and an hour of vigorous exercise at least once each week
  • Moderate alcohol consumption of three to nine drinks per week
  • Never smoking
  • A body mass index (BMI) of 25 of lower

The majority of the respondents reported having two or three of the healthy lifestyle factors. Only 589 women had all five factors and 1,535 of the women had none of the factors. The researchers recorded 1,554 strokes among the study participants. Each healthy lifestyle factor decreased stroke risk. Women who met all five healthy lifestyle criteria had a 54 percent lower risk for stroke than women who met none of the criteria.

Healthy diet was one of the most important factors to limit stroke risk. Women with a healthier diet were 13 percent less likely to have a cerebral infarction, a type of stroke responsible for around 80 percent of all strokes. Women with a healthy diet had a rate of 28 strokes per 10,000 women annually compared to 43 in 10,000 for women with a less healthy diet.

By eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly, women can reduce their risk of stroke. “Because the consequences of stroke are usually devastating and irreversible, prevention is of great importance. These results are exciting because they indicate that a healthy diet and lifestyle can substantially reduce the risk of stroke, and these are lifestyle choices that people can make or improve,” stated study author Susanna C. Larsson, PhD.

This research is published in the journal Neurology.

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