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Middle-Age Lifestyle Changes Can Cut Women’s Stroke Risk

Effective strategies include quitting smoking, starting exercise, maintaining healthy weight, eating healthy food

FRIDAY, April 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Even in middle age, women can make lifestyle modifications that can substantially lower their stroke risk, according to a study published online April 9 in Stroke.

Priyanka Jain, Sc.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues estimated the incidence of stroke under hypothetical lifestyle strategies using data from 59,727 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study (mean age, 52 years at baseline in 1986). Lifestyle changes included three nondietary strategies (smoking cessation, exercising ≥30 minutes/day, and gradual body mass index reduction if overweight/obese) and several dietary strategies (eating at least three servings/week of fish, three or less servings/week of unprocessed red meat, no processed red meat, and at least one serving/day of nuts).

The researchers found that the estimated 26-year risks with no lifestyle interventions were 4.7 percent for total stroke, 2.4 percent for ischemic stroke, and 0.7 percent for hemorrhagic stroke. The estimated 26-year risk using the combined nondietary interventions was 3.5 percent for total stroke and 1.6 percent for ischemic stroke. For isolated dietary strategies of increased intake of fish and nuts and reduced intake of unprocessed red meat, smaller reductions in total estimated stroke risk were seen. Ischemic stroke risk was lower with the strategy of reduced intake of unprocessed and processed red meat, while hemorrhagic stroke risk was lower with increased fish consumption.

“In this population of middle-aged women, sustained, lifestyle modifications were estimated to reduce the 26-year risk of total stroke by 25 percent and ischemic stroke by 36 percent,” the authors write. “Sustained dietary modifications were estimated to reduce the 26-year risk of total stroke by 23 percent.”

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