THURSDAY, April 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a middle-aged woman, it's not too late to make lifestyle changes that could significantly reduce your risk of stroke, researchers say.
"We found that changing to a healthy lifestyle, even in your 50s, still has the potential to prevent strokes," said lead author Goodarz Danaei, an associate professor of cardiovascular health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Women are more likely than men to have a stroke, die from a stroke and to have worse health and disability after a stroke. The average age of a first stroke in women is 75, the authors said in background notes.
In this study, researchers examined whether following healthy habits in midlife could reduce women's risk of stroke.
They analyzed data on nearly 60,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study. The women enrolled at an average age of 52 and remained in the study for an average of 26 years.
During that time, three steps -- quitting smoking, exercising for 30 minutes or more daily, and weight loss -- reduced overall stroke risk by 25% and the risk of ischemic stroke by 36%.
Ischemic stroke (blocked blood flow to the brain) is the most common type of stroke. The other type is hemorrhagic (bleeding stroke).
A healthier diet reduced the overall risk of stroke by 23%, according to the study. Such a diet involved eating more fish, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It also involved avoiding processed meat and alcohol.
The results were published April 9 in the journal Stroke.
This was an observational study that included mostly white, middle-aged women, but "there are other studies to support that the proportional changes in stroke risk from lifestyle and dietary modifications may be generalizable to men," Danaei said in a journal news release. "We also estimate that exercising 30 minutes or more daily may reduce the risk of stroke by 20%."
The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more about stroke.