WEDNESDAY, Oct. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Women who follow five healthy habits can cut their stroke risk in half, new research suggests.
After being followed an average of 10 years, women who ate a healthy diet, drank alcohol moderately, never smoked, remained physically active and had a healthy body weight were 54 percent less likely to have a stroke than women with none of these factors, said study author Susanna Larsson, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
While other studies have looked at single risk factors, “only a few studies have examined the combined effects of a healthy lifestyle on stroke risk,” Larsson said.
“We observed that the risk of stroke decreased steadily with an increasing number of healthy lifestyle habits,” she said.
While the study found an association between healthy habits and stroke risk, a causal link was not proven.
The study is published in the Oct. 8 online edition of the journal Neurology.
Larsson’s team followed nearly 32,000 Swedish women, average age 60, as they reported on their diet and lifestyle. For the study, a healthy diet was considered one within the top 50 percent of a food score that measured how often the women ate fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and other healthy fare.
Moderate alcohol intake was termed three to nine drinks a week. Women were classified as physically active if they walked or biked at least 40 minutes a day, along with doing more vigorous exercise at least an hour once a week. Healthy weight was defined as having a body mass index (BMI) below 25. For example, a person who is 5 foot, 4inches and weighs 140 pounds has a BMI of 24.
About 1,500 women reported none of the healthy habits, but 589 had all five. Most women had two or three.
During the follow up, 1,554 strokes occurred. The more healthy habits a woman practiced, the less likely she was to have a stroke, the study authors found.
“It is never too late to start to be more healthy,” Larsson said. So, if women have reached mid-life and need to get healthier, she encourages them to do so.