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Study Suggests Lifestyle Changes Reduce A Woman’s Risk Of Stroke

A new study performed has determined that even in their middle age, women are way less likely to suffer from a stroke if they begin to adopt a healthy lifestyle at any point during adulthood. The research itself was performed by experts from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the University of São Paulo Medical School in Brazil. The teams used data that’s been gathered as a part of an ongoing study in America called the “Nurses Health Study,” which focuses on investigating “risk factors for major chronic diseases in women.” 

Thanks to data from that study, the researchers had access to health information from over 59,000 women, all of which consented to being involved in these projects. The data provided information regarding each women’s smoking status, exercise/eating habits, as well as their body mass index (BMI), which is a number that represents how healthy one is based on height, weight, and age. Within the Nurses Health Study specifically, all of the women were around 50-years-old when they began, and they remained in the study for an average of 25 years. 

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The findings were published in a journal from the American Stroke Association, called Stroke, and found that 4.7% of the women who made no lifestyle changes at all throughout their 26 years in the study had a stroke of some kind; “2.4 percent experiencing ischemic stroke and 0.7 percent having a hemorrhagic stroke.”

Besides healthier eating habits, the “lifestyle changes” that researchers were looking for specifically focused on those who quit smoking, began doing 30 minutes of exercise a day, and lost weight if they were considered to be overweight from a health officials perspective. If the women made these three specific changes, the study suggests that they could reduce their risk of stroke by up to 25%.

If the women just adopted healthier eating habits, they reduced their stroke risk by 23%. Goodarz Danaei, one of the lead authors of the study, also suggested that by increasing things like fish and nuts in ones diet, while also reducing the amount of unprocessed red meat you eat, would also decrease the risk of stroke in women.

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“We found that changing to a healthy lifestyle, even in your 50s, still has the potential to prevent strokes. Women who made lifestyle modifications in middle age reduced their long-term risk of total stroke by nearly a quarter and ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, by more than one-third,” Danaei said.

Danaei then emphasized that this was simply an observational study, so the data isn’t necessarily concrete enough to make a direct correlation between these specific lifestyle changes and risk of stroke, however, as most studies/professionals will tell you, a healthy life in general will likely lead to less medical ailments/conditions down the road.

Danaei said “there are other studies to support that the proportional changes in stroke risk from lifestyle and dietary modifications may be generalizable to men. We also estimate that exercising 30 minutes or more daily may reduce the risk of stroke by 20 percent.”

With a global pandemic on all of our plates, now really is the perfect time to begin practicing healthier habits in our day-to-day proceedings. It can be so easy to get couch-locked with a bag of chips and candy, but try to start doing little things every day to lead you to a happier and healthier life once all of this is over.