Issue: July 2013
June 06, 2013
1 min read

Small lifestyle changes may have large effect on stroke risk

Issue: July 2013
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Better CV health is associated with lower risk for stroke, and researchers found that even small lifestyle changes could have a big effect on risk improvement.

Researchers assessed stroke risk in 22,914 black and white US adults aged at least 45 years. All were participants in the national, population-based Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. Stroke risk was assessed using Life’s Simple 7, a metric developed by the American Heart Association to define CV health. Components of Life’s Simple 7 include BP, cholesterol, blood glucose, BMI, smoking, physical activity and diet.

“We used the assessment tool to look at stroke risk and found that small differences in health status were associated with large reductions in stroke risk,” Mary Cushman, MD, MSc, professor of medicine at University of Vermont in Burlington, said in a press release.

Mary Cushman, MD, MSc 

Mary Cushman

The Life’s Simple 7 scores were divided into three categories: 0 to 4 points, inadequate CV health; 5 to 9 points, average CV health; and 10 to 14 points, optimum CV health.

Overall, 432 strokes occurred during 5 years of follow-up. After adjustment for demographics, socioeconomic status and region, each better health category was associated with a 25% lower risk for stroke. The strongest indicator of risk was BP; participants with ideal BP status had a 60% lower risk for stroke compared with participants with poorer BP status. Each 1-point increase toward an overall better score was associated with an 8% lower risk for stroke. Participants with optimum CV health scores had a 48% lower risk for stroke and those with average CV health scores had a 27% lower risk for stroke vs. participants with inadequate scores.

Black participants had lower Life’s Simple 7 scores than white participants; however, the association of score with stroke risk was similar in both groups (P=.55)

According to Cushman, “This highlights the critical importance of improving these health factors since blacks have nearly twice the stroke mortality as whites.”

Researchers also found that participants who did not smoke or quit smoking more than 1 year before participation in the REGARDS study had a 40% lower risk for stroke.

For more information:

Kulshreshtha A. Stroke. 2013;doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.000352.

Disclosure: Cushman reports no relevant financial disclosures.