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Small lifestyle changes can reduce risk of stroke

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 18/06/2013

According to a study by the American Heart Association you can reduce your risk of having a stroke by making small lifestyle changes.

Researchers found that the risk of stroke was significantly reduced for individuals who had average or optimum cardiovascular health compared to those who had poor cardiovascular health.

Seven key health factors

Strokes are caused by abnormal changes in blood flow in the brain or the bursting of brain blood vessels. Previous studies suggest that strokes can be prevented by reducing risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

This study was based on Life's Simple 7, which are recognised health factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle: manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, control blood sugar, maintain a healthy weight, don't smoke, be active and eat a healthy diet.

Each of these factors was scored from 0 to 9 - with scores from 0-4 indicating poor cardiovascular health, 5-9 average health and 10-14 representing optimal health.

The American researchers measured the relationship between these risk factors and the occurrence of stroke in over 22,000 subjects from 2003 to 2007 using the score chart. The results showed that an increase of even one score point significantly reduced the chances of the individual having a stroke within 5 years.

Important research findings from the study include:

  • every one-point increase to a higher score meant an 8% reduced stroke risk
  • those with optimum scores had a 48% lower stroke risk than those with poor cardiovascular health
  • those with average health had a 27% lower risk of stroke than those with poor cardiovascular health

During the course of the study, 432 strokes occurred. Researchers found that of the 7 health factors, having ideal blood pressure was the most important indicator of stroke risk.

The complications of a stroke

Some strokes may be quite mild and the effects only temporary, whereas others may be more severe and cause lasting damage. Complications of stroke include:

  • weakness, paralysis or loss of muscle movement, usually on one side of your body
  • lack of awareness of one side of your body
  • loss of sensation on one side of your body
  • fits
  • difficulty swallowing
  • extreme tiredness and sleep problems
  • difficulty talking, reading and writing
  • problems with vision, such as double vision or partial blindness
  • memory loss , concentration difficulties and difficulties understanding
  • incontinence or constipation
  • pain
  • behavioural changes and anxiety

According to Ambar Kulshreshtha, of Emory University in Atlanta: "Our study supports this idea that making small changes in lifestyle can have huge impact in reducing stroke burden."

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