(NaturalNews) From previous studies, it had already been shown that living a healthy lifestyle contributes to lower risks of contracting various serious illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes. But little had been proven about the link between healthy living and one's risk of getting a stroke.
This gap has been closed by the findings of a recent study conducted by the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
"This study shows that following a healthy lifestyle, which has been associated with up to 80 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and 90 percent lower risk of diabetes, may also prevent more than half of ischemic strokes," said Dr. Stephanie E. Chiuve, leader of the study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Stroke – a major killer today
Each year, it is estimated that over 780,000 people in the United States alone suffer a stroke -- this works out to about one person every 40 seconds. Of this figure, about 600,000 are first-time occurrences.
An ischemic stroke takes place when the blood supply to a part of the brain is reduced, and the affected brain tissue suffers dysfunction and necrosis. This could happen, for example, when a blood vessel becomes blocked. Ischemic strokes are the most common kind of stroke, with about 87% of all strokes estimated to be of this nature.
When categorized separately from other cardiovascular diseases, strokes are the third highest killer in the United States today, behind cancer and heart disease.
Details of Stroke Study
This latest study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, analyzed the living habits and health status of a total of 43,685 men as well as 71,243 women from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) and the Nurses' Health Study respectively.
The participants reported on their medical status and lifestyle factors every two years, with the males tracked from 1986 to 2002 and the females from 1984 to 2002. In the course of the respective periods, 994 men and 1,559 women suffered strokes, of which 600 and 853 respectively were ischemic strokes.
In the study, a healthy or low-risk lifestyle was defined to contain the following elements:
* maintenance of a healthy weight (body mass index less than 25);
* at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day;
* not smoking;
* moderate drinking of alcohol; and
* consumption of a relatively healthy diet, as indicated by a calculated healthy diet score. Some factors here include the consumption of good amounts of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, chicken and fish, as well as low amounts of trans fats and saturated fats.
Findings of the Study
The results of the study were quite astonishing. Men who met all five healthy lifestyle criteria were 69% less likely to suffer any type of stroke and 80% less likely to get an ischemic stroke as compared to those who did not meet any of the five criteria.
For women, the corresponding figures were 79% for any type of stroke and 81% for ischemic stroke.
Further, it was estimated by the researchers that 52% of ischemic strokes suffered by men, as well as 35% of all strokes suffered by this group, could have been avoided by following a healthy lifestyle.
As for the women, the proportions of ischemic and total strokes which might have been prevented through healthy living were estimated to be 54% and 47% respectively.
All in all, the findings of the study revealed that people who fit the definition of having a healthy lifestyle were about 80% less likely to get an ischemic stroke, as compared to those who did not meet any of the five mentioned criteria.
This has led the study team to conclude that "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".
Living a healthy lifestyle and having a decreased risk of killer diseases –- this is a relationship which many of us would have been convinced of through common sense alone. Now, with the release of these findings, we will all have one more concrete and proven reason to embark on a healthier lifestyle.