Harvard Health Letter

Lifestyle modifications help reduce stroke risk

A healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward reducing stroke risk, according to a study published Oct. 8, 2014, in the journal Neurology. Researchers in Sweden found that women might cut their risk of stroke by more than 50% with five lifestyle strategies: eating a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products; never smoking; drinking moderately (no more than nine alcoholic drinks per week); walking or biking at least 40 minutes per day, along with more vigorous exercise at least one hour per week; and maintaining a body mass index below 25. Even practicing just one of these behaviors was associated with a reduced stroke risk. For example, women who had a healthier diet were 13% less likely to have a stroke than those whose diet was not as healthy. "Lifestyle modifications do more to reduce the risk of stroke than do many drugs," says Dr. Natalia Rost, a Harvard Medical School associate professor and the director of acute stroke services at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "In stroke prevention, simple lifestyle changes deliver powerful results."

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