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Circulation. 2008 Aug 26;118(9):947-54. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.781062. Epub 2008 Aug 12.

Primary prevention of stroke by healthy lifestyle.

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Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition, 665 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



The combination of healthy lifestyle factors is associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and total cardiovascular disease. Little is known about the impact of multiple lifestyle factors on the risk of stroke.


We conducted a prospective cohort study among 43,685 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 71,243 women from the Nurses' Health Study. Diet and other lifestyle factors were updated from self-reported questionnaires. We defined a low-risk lifestyle as not smoking, a body mass index <25 kg/m(2), >or=30 min/d of moderate activity, modest alcohol consumption (men, 5 to 30 g/d; women, 5 to 15 g/d), and scoring within the top 40% of a healthy diet score. We documented 1559 strokes (853 ischemic, 278 hemorrhagic) among women and 994 strokes (600 ischemic, 161 hemorrhagic) among men during follow-up. Women with all 5 low-risk factors had a relative risk of 0.21 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.12, 0.36) for total and 0.19 (95% CI, 0.09, 0.40) for ischemic stroke compared with women who had none of these factors. Among men, the relative risks were 0.31 (95% CI, 0.19, 0.53) for total and 0.20 (95% CI, 0.10, 0.42) for ischemic stroke for the same comparison. Among the women, 47% (95% CI, 18 to 69) of total and 54% (95% CI, 15 to 78%) of ischemic stroke cases were attributable to lack of adherence to a low-risk lifestyle; among the men, 35% (95% CI, 7 to 58) of total and 52% (95% CI, 19 to 75) of ischemic stroke may have been prevented.


A low-risk lifestyle that is associated with a reduced risk of multiple chronic diseases also may be beneficial in the prevention of stroke, especially ischemic stroke.

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