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Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jul 10;166(13):1403-9.

Healthy lifestyle and the risk of stroke in women.

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Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



Healthy lifestyle has been associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease. In contrast, little is known about its association with stroke risk.


This is a prospective cohort study among 37 636 women 45 years or older participating in the Women's Health Study. Stroke was self-reported and confirmed by means of medical record review. We considered the following self-reported lifestyle factors: smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, body mass index, and diet. The health index was calculated from these variables by assigning scores from 0 to 4 to the respective variable categories, with a higher score indicating healthier behavior. Healthy behavior was defined as never smoking, alcohol consumption between 4 and 10.5 drinks per week, exercise 4 or more times per week, body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) less than 22, and a diet high in cereal fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids, with a high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat, and low in trans fat and glycemic load.


During 10 years of follow-up, 450 strokes (356 ischemic, 90 hemorrhagic, and 4 undefined) were confirmed. Compared with participants with 0 to 4 health index points (4.3%), women with 17 to 20 health index points (4.7%) had multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios (95% confidence interval) of 0.45 (0.24-0.83; P<.001 for trend) for total stroke, 0.29 (0.14-0.63; P<.001 for trend) for ischemic stroke, and 1.27 (0.37-4.29; P = .62 for trend) for hemorrhagic stroke.


In this large prospective cohort of apparently healthy women, a healthy lifestyle consisting of abstinence from smoking, low body mass index, moderate alcohol consumption, regular exercise, and healthy diet was associated with a significantly reduced risk of total and ischemic stroke but not of hemorrhagic stroke. Our findings underscore the importance of healthy behaviors in the prevention of stroke.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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