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Oct 09, 2014 03:44 PM EDT

A Healthy Diet, Lifestyle May Cut Stroke Risk in Half for Women

A healthy lifestyle significantly reduces stroke risk, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that women with a healthy diet and lifestyle are 54 percent less likely to have a stroke. The study looked at five factors that make up a healthy lifestyle: healthy diet; moderate alcohol consumption; never smoking; physically active; and healthy body mass index (BMI).

"Because the consequences of stroke are usually devastating and irreversible, prevention is of great importance," study author Susanna C. Larsson said in a statement. "These results are exciting because they indicate that a healthy diet and lifestyle can substantially reduce the risk of stroke, and these are lifestyle choices that people can make or improve."

For the study, 31,696 Swedish women with an average age of about 60 completed a 350-item questionnaire about their diet and lifestyle. They were then followed for an average of 10 years

A healthy diet was defined as within the top 50 percent of a recommended food score measuring how often the participants ate healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Moderate alcohol consumption was defined as three to nine drinks per week. Physically active was defined as walking or biking at least 40 minutes a day along with more vigorous exercise at least one hour per week. Healthy BMI was considered below 25.

Researchers found that women who had a healthier diet were 13 percent less likely to have a type of stroke called a cerebral infraction than those whose diet was not as healthy. Women with healthier diets had a rate of 28 strokes per 10,000 women per year compared to 43 strokes per 10,000 women per year among those with a less healthy diet.

The findings were recently published in an online issue of Neurology. 

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