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AHA Report: Small Lifestyle Changes May Have Big Impact on Reducing Stroke Risk

Authors evaluate seven key health factors (June 6)

Making small lifestyle changes could reduce the risk of having a stroke, according to a new study published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Researchers assessed the risk of stroke using the AHA’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 senior author Mary Cushman, MD, MSc.

Researchers divided the “Life’s Simple 7” scores into three categories: 0 to 4 points for inadequate; 5 to 9 points for average; and 10 to 14 points for optimum cardiovascular health.

The researchers found:

  • Every 1-point increase toward a better score was associated with an 8% lower stroke risk.
  • Compared with people with inadequate scores, those with optimal scores had a 48% lower stroke risk, and those with average scores had a 27% lower stroke risk.
  • A better score was associated with a similar reduced stroke risk in Caucasians and blacks.

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

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, the researchers said.

Source: AHA; June 6, 2013.

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