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Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors Lower Risk of Stroke

Combined effect observed for nonsmoking, physical activity, moderate drinking, healthy diet

FRIDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- In middle-aged and older adults, a combination of four healthy lifestyle behaviors may significantly reduce the risk of stroke, according to a study published online Feb. 20 in the British Medical Journal.

Phyo K. Myint, M.D., of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K., and colleagues studied 20,040 subjects ages 40-79 who were free of stroke and heart attack in 1993-1997. The researchers assigned one point each for four healthy behaviors: current nonsmoking, not sedentary, moderate drinking (one to 14 drinks per week), and a plasma vitamin C concentration equivalent to at least five servings per day of fruit and vegetables.

After an average follow-up of 11.5 years, the researchers identified 599 incident strokes. After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, and body mass index, they found that subjects with three, two, one, or no healthy behaviors had a steadily increased stroke risk (relative risks, 1.15, 1.58, 2.18, and 2.31, respectively) compared to subjects with all four healthy behaviors.

"The conclusion that lifestyle predicts the risk of stroke should help to inform individuals' choices and policy makers' decisions," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "However, what is also consistent but less encouraging is the small proportion of participants with a lifestyle that protects against stroke -- although lifestyle interventions could be of great benefit, a huge shift in behavior will be needed to achieve this."

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