Healthy habits add up to lower stroke risk

How can a woman cut her risk of stroke in half? A recent study found it might be done by following five healthy habits.

The study from Sweden found that women who followed a healthy diet, drank alcohol in moderation, avoided smoking, kept active and maintained a healthy body weight over a decade had a risk of stroke that was 54 percent less than women with none of those healthy habits.

Dr. Lee Birnbaum, assistant professor of neurology at the UT Health Science Center, who practices at University Health System and wasn’t involved in the research, said the study was unusual in that it looked at a combination of risk factors for stroke, rather than just one.

“Although previous studies demonstrated a reduction in stroke risk with modification of single risk factors, this study uniquely demonstrated that modification of multiple risk factors has an additive affect on stroke prevention,” Dr. Birnbaum said. “These results give further credence to what many of us already believed — that there is no silver bullet to stroke prevention, but rather a well-balanced approach to health.”

The study, published online this month in the journal Neurology, followed nearly 32,000 Swedish women who reported what they ate and other lifestyle factors for 10 years. The average age of the women was 60.

Moderate alcohol consumption was considered three to nine drinks a week. Being physically active involved walking or biking 40 minutes a day, plus at least one hour per week of more vigorous exercise.

The benefits weren’t confined to those who had all five healthy habits. The more healthy habits a woman had, the lower her stroke risk.