Stroke: A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk even in middle age

Stroke: A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk even in middle age

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This is how women can protect themselves from a stroke

As is well known, younger women can protect themselves from a stroke through a healthy lifestyle. But middle-aged women can also significantly reduce their risk of stroke by not smoking, exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight and generally eating a healthy diet.

In the current investigation by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that middle-aged women can reduce their risk of stroke through exercise, diet, and smoking cessation. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Stroke".

Women are more likely than men to have a stroke

In general, the research group reports that women are more likely to have a stroke, die from a stroke, and have a worse state of health and physical function after a stroke than men.

First stroke in women on average at 75 years

The average age at first stroke in women is 75 years. Based on this information, the researchers suspected that a lifestyle change in the middle of life could help reduce the risk of stroke in women. They checked this using the data from almost 60,000 women from the “Nurses’ Health Study ”.

The researchers analyzed the effects of daily exercise for at least 30 minutes, smoking cessation and gradual weight loss in overweight women on the risk of stroke. They also examined the effects of recommended dietary changes that included more fish, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and less red meat, no processed meat, and less alcohol.

A healthy lifestyle is also worthwhile at an advanced age

"We found that switching to a healthy lifestyle still had the potential to prevent stroke, even in the 1950s," says study author Professor Bernard Lown of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston in a press release.

How did lifestyle changes affect you?

"Women who made lifestyle changes in middle age reduced their long-term risk of stroke by almost a quarter overall and that of ischemic stroke, the most common form of stroke, by more than a third," added the expert.

How often has a stroke occurred?

During the 26-year follow-up period of the Nurses' Health Study, 4.7 percent of women without lifestyle interventions experienced a stroke of any kind, 2.4 percent had an ischemic stroke, and 0.7 percent had one hemorrhagic stroke.

How much could the risk be reduced through healthy eating?

Participation in the three non-nutritional interventions: smoking cessation, daily exercise, and weight loss was estimated to reduce the risk of stroke by 25 percent and ischemic stroke by 36 percent. Sustainable modifications to the diet reduced the risk of stroke by an estimated 23 percent, the researchers report.

The positive effects of physical activity were stronger

It was also found that increasing the consumption of fish and nuts and reducing the consumption of unprocessed red meat appeared to have positive effects on reducing the risk of stroke, although the degree of impact of these dietary changes was not as great as that caused by increased physical activity, smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy weight were achieved.

Do the results ascertained also apply to men?

Although it was only an observational study, the researchers explain that there are other studies that show that the proportional changes in stroke risk may be transferable to men through lifestyle and diet changes. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Priyanka Jain, Claudia K. Suemoto, Kathryn Rexrode, JoAnn E. Manson, James M. Robins et al .: Hypothetical Lifestyle Strategies in Middle-Aged Women and the Long-Term Risk of Stroke, in Stroke (published April 9, 2020), Stroke
  • Women's lifestyle changes, even in middle age, may reduce future stroke risk, American Heart Association (published April 9, 2020), AHA

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