Small lifestyle changes may have big impact on reducing stroke risk

June 06, 2013 Categories: Stroke News

Study Highlights:

  • Making small lifestyle changes could reduce your stroke risk.
  • Every one-point increase toward a better health score was associated with an 8 percent lower stroke risk.
  • A better health score was associated with a similar reduction in stroke risk in blacks and whites.

EMBARGOED UNTIL 3 p.m. CT/4 p.m. ET, Thursday, June 6, 2013
DALLAS, June 6, 2013 — Making small lifestyle changes could reduce your risk of having a stroke, according to a new study in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Researchers assessed stroke risk using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 health factors: be active, control cholesterol, eat a healthy diet, manage blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, control blood sugar and don’t smoke.

“We used the assessment tool to look at stroke risk and found that small differences in health status were associated with large reductions in stroke risk,” said Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., senior author and professor of medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Researchers divided the Life’s Simple 7 scores into three categories: zero to four points for inadequate, five to nine points for average, and 10 to 14 points for optimum cardiovascular health.

Researchers found:

  • Every one-point increase toward a better score was associated with an 8 percent lower stroke risk.
  • Compared to those with inadequate scores, people with optimum scores had a 48 percent lower stroke risk and those with average scores had a 27 percent lower stroke risk.
  • A better score was associated with a similar reduced stroke risk in blacks and whites.

While black participants had worse Life’s Simple 7 scores than whites, the association of the Life’s Simple 7 score with stroke risk was similar in black and white participants. “This highlights the critical importance of improving these health factors since blacks have nearly twice the stroke mortality rates as whites,” Cushman said.

Cushman and colleagues reviewed information on 22,914 black and white Americans age 45 and older who are participating in a nationwide population-based study called the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS).

Researchers collected data in 2003-07 by telephone, self-administered questionnaires and at-home exams. Participants were followed for 5 years for stroke. Many of the study participants live in the Southeast region of the United States where death rates from stroke are the highest.

During the study, 432 strokes occurred. All seven health factors in Life’s Simple 7 played an important role in predicting the risk for stroke, but having ideal blood pressure was the most important indicator of stroke risk, researchers said.

“Compared to those with poor blood pressure status, those who were ideal had a 60 percent lower risk of future stroke,” Cushman said.

Researchers also found that those who didn’t smoke or quit smoking more than one year prior to the beginning of the study had a 40 percent lower stroke risk.

Each year, about 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke — the No. 4 killer and a leading cause of long-term disability. Every four minutes, an American dies from stroke. People can check their health status at www.mylifecheck.org.

Co-authors are Ambar Kulshreshtha, M.D., M.P.H. (first author); Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D.; Suzanne Judd, Ph.D.; Virginia J. Howard, Ph.D.; William McClellan, M.D., M.P.H.; Paul Muntner, Ph.D.; Yuling Hong, M.D., Ph.D.; Monika M. Safford, M.D. and Abhinav Goyal, M.D., M.H.S. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

REGARDS is funded by a cooperative agreement from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Service.

For the latest heart and stroke news, follow @HeartNews on Twitter.

For stroke science, follow Stroke at @StrokeAHA_ASA.

###

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content.  Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

Additional resources, including multimedia, are available in the right column of this link: http://newsroom.heart.org/news/small-lifestyle-changes-may-have-big-impact-on-reducing-stroke-risk?preview=d15f31ab0299c9e255dc5cc8bc1be983

For Media Inquiries: (214) 706-1173
Karen Astle: (214) 706-1392; Karen.astle@heart.org
Bridgette McNeill: (214) 706-1135; Bridgette.McNeill@heart.org
Julie Del Barto (broadcast): (214) 706-1330; Julie.DelBarto@heart.org
For Public Inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

  • Share