July 11, 2006

Healthier lifestyles may reduce women’s stroke risk

By Charnicia Huggins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who abstain from smoking,
drink alcohol moderately, exercise regularly, maintain a
healthy weight for their height and eat a healthy diet are less
likely to experience a particular type of stroke than those
with less healthy lifestyles, new study findings indicate.

"Our findings underscore the importance of healthy
behaviors in the prevention of stroke," Dr. Tobias Kurth, of
Brigham and Woman's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and
colleagues write in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The benefit depends on the stroke subtype," Kurth told
Reuters Health. "We observed a beneficial effect on ischemic
stroke, the most common form of stroke, but not on hemorrhagic

Ischemic stroke results from a blockage of an artery
supplying blood to the brain, whereas a hemorrhagic stroke
occurs when a blood vessel breaks and causes bleeding into the

Almost a quarter of the approximately 700,000 strokes that
occur each year end in death and a similar proportion result in
permanent disability. Kurth and colleagues looked at lifestyle
factors that may play a role in the prevention of stroke.
Several factors such as smoking, exercise and body weight have
been studied individually, but not in combination.

The researchers analyzed data on 37,636 women, aged 45
years and older, from the Women's Health Study. During an
average 10 years of follow-up, a total of 450 strokes occurred
among the women. The majority of strokes experienced were

Women with the healthiest lifestyles, based on their scores
on a health index that took smoking, drinking, exercise, body
mass index and diet into consideration, were 55 percent less
likely to experience a stroke than those with the lowest health
index scores, the researchers report.

These healthiest women, who comprised five percent of the
study group, were 71 percent less likely to experience an
ischemic stroke but no such beneficial effect was seen for
hemorrhagic stroke.

The reduced risk of stroke from a healthy lifestyle was
evident among women of all ages, the researchers note, and the
benefit remained apparent even after taking into account
various biological factors that may otherwise have contributed
to the women's risk of stroke, such as a history of high blood
pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

In light of the findings, "simple lifestyle modification
may help to reduce the risk of stroke," Kurth told Reuters

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, July 10, 2006.