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Healthy lifestyle in middle-aged women linked to reduced risk of stroke

According to the study “Hypothetical Lifestyle Strategies in Middle-Aged Women and the Long-Term Risk of Stroke” women can reduce the risk of suffering a strokes in the future, by adopting healthy lifestyles midlife (45-65 years).

Globally, stroke is a primary cause of preventable disability, and while the US is enjoying reduced incidence and mortality, the burden is increasing in African countries including Kenya. Further exacerbating the challenge is limited data on the actual burden of stroke and related patterns. However, from existing data, women have been shown to get more affected and have poorer outcomes than men.

The study conducted in the US where women are also disproportionately affected to men, looked at lifestyle factors and the risk of stroke. The lifestyle changes included smoking cessation, moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for an average of 30 minutes a day, weight reduction by at least 5% at every review period, and finally diet adjustment.

This included increased consumption of fish, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, reduced consumption of unprocessed red meat, avoidance of processed red meat and reduced consumption of alcohol. The results showed that lifestyle modification reduced the 26-year risk of total stroke by upto 25%, and ischemic stroke by upto 36%.

More influencing in reducing the risk of total and ischemic stroke factors were smoking cessation, daily exercise, weight loss, increased fish and nut intakes, and reduced consumption of unprocessed red meat.

Now this risk reduction was greater among women who had baseline stroke risk. This emphasises that a healthy lifestyle is important in reducing the risk of stroke even if it is adopted mid-life or later. However, different types of strokes affect women differently.  Ischemic strokes for instance are more common among women. As such, these recommendations need to be implemented with consideration of the stroke subtypes, and their impact.

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Christine Nderitu

Licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through health education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. She writes a weekly (Monday) nutrition column in the People Daily and is experienced in nutrition management, research, health education and promotion in; HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Maternal and Child Health and Non-Communicable Diseases. She has been engaged in these activities since 2011. Christine feels the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour. And humanity-we have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.