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Lifestyle changes may cut future stroke risk in women

New York, April 9 (IANS) Women in their 50s, kindly take note. Middle age may not be too late for you to reduce stroke risk by quitting smoking, daily exercising, maintaining weight and making healthy food choices, according to a new study.

In general, women are more likely than men to have a stroke, die from stroke and have poorer health and physical function after a stroke, said the study published in the American Stroke Association.

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The average age of first stroke in women is 75 years. Based on this information, researchers theorised that making mid-life lifestyle changes might help reduce stroke's burden among women.

“We found that changing to a healthy lifestyle, even in your 50s, still has the potential to prevent strokes. Women who made lifestyle modifications in middle-age reduced their long-term risk of total stroke by nearly a quarter and ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, by more than one-third,” said lead author Goodarz Danaei from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, US.

For the findings, researchers analysed the Nurses' Health Study, which includes health information on nearly 60,000 women who enrolled at an average age of 52 and continued in the study for an average of 26 years.

Researchers studied the impact on stroke risk from smoking cessation, exercising 30 minutes or more daily and gradual weight loss if women were overweight.

They also studied the impact of making recommended dietary modifications that emphasize eating more fish, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less red meat, no processed meat and less alcohol.

During the 26-year follow-up, the research team found that 4.7 per cent of women with no lifestyle interventions had a stroke of any type; 2.4 per cent had an ischemic stroke, and 0.7 per cent had a hemorrhagic stroke.

Engaging in the three non-dietary interventions — smoking cessation, daily exercise and weight loss — was estimated to reduce the risk of total stroke by 25 per cent and ischemic stroke by 36 per cent.

Sustained dietary modifications were estimated to reduce the risk of total stroke by 23 per cent.

Researchers also found that increasing fish and nut consumption and reducing unprocessed red meat consumption appeared to have positive impacts on reducing stroke risk.

While this was an observational study that included mostly white, middle-aged women, Danaei said: “We also estimate that exercising 30 minutes or more daily may reduce the risk of stroke by 20 per cent.”

–IANS

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