10 Easy Ways to Prevent Stroke

Jennifer G. Allen
Published Online: Friday, July 22nd, 2016
A recent study identified 10 risk factors that seem to account for 90% of strokes.
 
Stroke prevention has become a major public health priority, as the disease burden continues to rise. The 2 major types of stroke are ischemic stroke caused by blood clots, which accounts for 85% of strokes, and hemorrhagic stroke or bleeding into the brain, which accounts for the remaining 15%.
 
The good news is that the majority of the factors that contribute to an increased risk of stroke are modifiable behaviors. That finding came from an analysis of health data from the first phase of the INTERSTROKE study, which examined 27,000 individuals from developing countries on every continent.
 
Risk factors for stroke, in order of worldwide importance, were identified as:
 
1.     High blood pressure
Reducing high blood pressure can cut the risk of stroke in nearly half.
2.     Physical inactivity
Healthy activity could reduce stroke risk by 36%.
3.     Lipids
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels could reduce stroke risk by 27%.
4.     Poor diet
Maintaining healthy diets could reduce stroke risk by 23%.
5.     Obesity
Maintaining healthy weight could reduce stroke risk by 19%.
6.     Smoking
Tobacco cessation could reduce stroke risk by 12%.
7.     Heart causes
Addressing heart disease could reduce stroke risk by 9%.
8.     Alcohol use
Eliminating alcohol abuse could reduce stroke risk by 6%.
9.     Stress
Successfully managing stress could reduce stroke risk by 6%.
10. Diabetes
Preventing diabetes could reduce stroke risk by 4%.
 
Although the study wasn’t designed to explore how risk factors vary by age, sex, ethnicity, or region, the investigators did find that the importance of some risk factors varies by region. For example, high blood pressure is an extremely important risk factor in Southeast Asia, where it accounts for almost 60% of strokes, but in North America, Western Europe, and Australia, it only accounts for about 39% of strokes.
 
“Our findings will inform the development of global population-level interventions to reduce stroke, and how such programs may be tailored to individual regions,” stated study co-leader Salim Yusuf, professor of medicine and executive director of the Population Health Research Institute.
 
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in retail clinics might be the most ideal providers to promote these behavioral changes because they are well placed to counsel the community at large and patients individually about the importance of maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle.
 
The study recently appeared in The Lancet.

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