Skip to main content

19-09-2011 | Stroke | Article

Healthy lifestyle protects against ischemic, hemorrhagic stroke


Free abstract

MedWire News: People can reduce their risk for all types of stroke simply by living a healthy lifestyle, say researchers.

The findings, from a large population-based, prospective study, show that each additional healthy lifestyle factor that people adhere to provides extra protection against ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

The cumulative effect of multiple healthy lifestyle factors on stroke risk is less certain for hemorrhagic than ischemic stroke, as studies such as the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study found a clear cumulative effect for ischemic stroke, but not hemorrhagic stroke.

Gang Hu (Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA) and colleagues say that there were fewer hemorrhagic strokes in these previous studies, and add that "the participants in these studies were healthy professionals and had a better health awareness than the general population."

The current study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It included 36,686 people from the general Finnish population, who were aged 25 to 74 years and free of coronary heart disease and stroke at the time of the baseline survey - between 1982 and 2002. During an average 13.7 years of follow-up, 1478 people had a stroke, of which 1167 were ischemic and 311 hemorrhagic.

The participants supplied information on five healthy lifestyle factors: smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and vegetable and alcohol consumption.

As expected, each additional factor that the participants adhered to was associated with a reduction in total stroke risk, by 34%, 43%, 49%, and 67% for two, three, four, and five factors, respectively, compared with no or one factor. For ischemic stroke, the corresponding risk reductions were 33%, 40%, 50%, and 70%.

There was also a significant trend for a greater protective effect against hemorrhagic stroke with each additional healthy lifestyle factor that the participants adhered to, with risk reductions of 37%, 51%, 51%, and 60% for two, three, four, and five factors, respectively, versus no or one factor.

The partial population attributable risk percentages associated with adherence to five healthy lifestyle factors were 54.6% for total stroke, 59.7% for ischemic stroke, and 36.1% for hemorrhagic stroke, indicating the proportion of strokes that hypothetically have not occurred had all participants adhered to all five healthy lifestyle factors.

"These results… suggest that in this population, most cases of stroke could be avoided by practicing a healthy lifestyle," conclude Hu et al.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Eleanor McDermid