Stroke Risk Declines With Greater Number Of Healthy Lifestyle Factors

Stroke risk declines with greater number of healthy lifestyle factors

Stroke risk declines with greater number of healthy lifestyle factors

Friday, November 18, 2011. The November 14, 2011 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine reports the outcome of a study which concluded that the greater number of healthy lifestyle factors one has, the more protection one gains against stroke. Stroke is a major cause of death worldwide, and its impact on survivors can be devastating.

Gang Hu, MD, PhD of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and colleagues analyzed data from 17,287 men and 19,399 women without a history of heart disease or stroke who participated in surveys conducted in Finland in 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2002. Questionnaire responses provided information on medical history, physical activity levels, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, diet and other factors. Participants were followed through 2007, during which 1,167 ischemic strokes and 311 hemorrhagic strokes occurred.

The five healthy lifestyle factors evaluated in the study included being a lifelong nonsmoker, having a body mass index of less than 25, engaging in moderate to high levels of physical activity, consuming vegetables at least three times per week and having light to moderate weekly intake of alcohol. Compared to the risk of stroke experienced by those having one or no healthy factors, having two, three, four and five factors was associated with a 34, 43, 49 and 67 percent adjusted reduction. When stroke was analyzed according to type, having two, three, four and five factors was associated with a 33, 40, 50 and 70 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke and a 37, 51, 51 and 60 percent decreased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. These inverse associations were present in both younger and older participations and among those with and without high blood pressure or a history of diabetes.

"Our study demonstrates a graded inverse association between the number of healthy lifestyle factors and the risks of total, ischemic, and hemorrhagic stroke in both men and women," the authors conclude. "Our findings suggest the important role of promoting a healthy lifestyle in the primary prevention of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke."

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While the value of a rainbow diet that emphasizes richly pigmented plant foods has been recently touted for its health benefits, researchers from the Netherlands report online in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association the finding of a reduced risk of stroke among those who consume high amounts of fruit and vegetables with white flesh. The study is the first to evaluate the association of fruit and vegetable colors with stroke risk.

Linda M. Oude Griep, MSc and her colleagues evaluated dietary questionnaire responses of 20,069 adults with an average age of 41 to obtain information on the color of fruit and vegetables consumed. Color was classified as green, orange/yellow, red/purple or white.

Over a ten year follow-up, 233 strokes occurred. For those who had a high intake of white fruit and vegetables, such as apples, pears and cauliflower, the risk of stroke was 52 percent lower than those whose intake was low. Each 25 gram per day increase in white fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 9 percent lower risk.

"To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables," suggested Dr Griep, who is a postdoctoral fellow in human nutrition at Wageningen University. "For example, eating one apple a day is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake. However, other fruits and vegetable color groups may protect against other chronic diseases. Therefore, it remains of importance to consume a lot of fruits and vegetables."

"It may be too early for physicians to advise patients to change their dietary habits based on these initial findings," she added.

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