Small Lifestyle Change Has Big Impact on Reducing
Risk of Highly Feared Strokes
Study finds the risk drops rapidly with lifestyle
changes measured with AHA’s Simple 7
Copyright American Heart Association Source -
American Heart Association's journal Stroke: M. Cushman
June 6, 2013 – Most senior citizens are usually
battling one health threat or another, but, there are certain ailments
that are more feared than others. Alzheimer’s, the mind-destroyer,
always ranks first. But right up there with it is another
mind-wrecker - stroke. A new study, however, offers encouragement that seniors
can make just small changes in their lifestyle and make a big reduction
in their risk of
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability
in the U.S. that are caused by abnormal changes in blood
flow in the brain or the bursting of brain blood vessels.
In a new study reported in the American Heart
Association’s journal Stoke, researchers used a stroke assessment tool
developed by the association and named Life’s Simple 7 - be active,
control cholesterol, eat a healthy diet, manage blood pressure, maintain
a healthy weight, control blood sugar and don't smoke.
Each factor was scored as 0 (poor compliance), 1
(intermediate compliance), or 2 (ideal compliance), with overall total
scores grouped into three categories such that a score of 0-4 indicates
poor cardiovascular health, 5-9 average health, and 10-14 represents
"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," said Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., senior
author and professor of medicine at the University of Vermont in
● Every one-point increase toward a better score
there was an 8 percent lower stroke risk.
● Compared to those with inadequate scores,
people with optimum scores had a 48 percent lower stroke risk and those
with average scores had a 27 percent lower stroke risk.
● A better score was associated with a similar
reduced stroke risk in blacks and whites.
The results back up previous studies that show
strokes can be prevented by reducing these risk factors for
In 2010, the American Heart Association/American
Stroke Association defined seven critical risk factors as: elevated
blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose, obesity, current
smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet and then used them to create
the cardiovascular health score called Life's Simple 7.
While black participants had worse Life's Simple 7
scores than whites, the association of the Life's Simple 7 score with
stroke risk was similar in black and white participants.
"This highlights the critical importance of
improving these health factors since blacks have nearly twice the stroke
mortality rates as whites," Cushman said.
Cushman and colleagues reviewed information on
22,914 black and white Americans age 45 and older who are participating
in a nationwide population-based study called the Reasons for Geographic
and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS).
Researchers collected data in 2003-07 by telephone,
self-administered questionnaires and at-home exams. Participants were
followed for 5 years for stroke. Many of the study participants live in
the Southeast region of the United States where death rates from stroke
are the highest.
During the study, 432 strokes occurred. All seven
health factors in Life's Simple 7 played an important role in predicting
the risk for stroke, but having ideal blood pressure was the most
important indicator of stroke risk, researchers said.
"Compared to those with poor blood pressure status,
those who were ideal had a 60 percent lower risk of future stroke,"
Researchers also found that those who didn't smoke
or quit smoking more than one year prior to the beginning of the study
had a 40 percent lower stroke risk.
Each year, about 795,000 people in the United
States have a stroke — the No. 4 killer and a leading cause of long-term
disability. Every four minutes, an American dies from stroke. People can
check their health status at
Co-authors are Ambar Kulshreshtha, M.D., M.P.H.
(first author); Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D.; Suzanne Judd, Ph.D.;
Virginia J. Howard, Ph.D.; William McClellan, M.D., M.P.H.; Paul Muntner,
Ph.D.; Yuling Hong, M.D., Ph.D.; Monika M. Safford, M.D. and Abhinav
Goyal, M.D., M.H.S. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
REGARDS is funded by a cooperative agreement from
the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National
Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Service.
NINDS is the nation's
leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The NINDS
mission is to reduce the burden of neurological disease – a burden borne
by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes
27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting
and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and
is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and
rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit
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