HealthDay News — Female patients who follow five healthy habits: healthy diet, moderate alcohol intake, physical activity, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight, may be able to cut their risk of stroke in half, according to researchers.

The impact of stroke can be “devastating and irreversible,” wrote Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues in Neurology. “Primary prevention is of great importance.”

To investigate the association between a low-risk lifestyle and risk of stroke, the researchers conducted a population-based cohort study involving 31,696 women aged 60 years on average. The participants, at baseline, had completed a questionnaire about diet and lifestyle and were free from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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Lifestyle factors that were studied:

  • Healthy diet, defined as within the top 50% of a food score that measured how often participants ate fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and other healthy foods
  • Never smoking
  • Moderate alcohol intake, defined as three to nine drinks per week
  • Physically active lifestyle, defined as walking or biking at least 40 minutes per day, along with doing more vigorous exercise at least one hour per week
  •  Healthy weight defined as having a body mass index below 25 kg/m2

Of all participants, 1,535 women reported none of the health habits, while 589 had all five; most women reported two to three. During follow-up, the investigators found 1,554 strokes had occurred. The more healthy habits a participant practiced, the less likely she was to have a stroke, particularly ischemic stroke.

Female participants who ate a healthy diet, consumed alcohol in moderation, never smoked, remained physically active, and maintained a healthy BMI were 54% less likely to have a stroke compared with women who reported none of these factors.


  1. Larsson SC et al. Neurology. 2014; doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000954