Certain lifestyle changes could greatly reduce your stroke risk, according to a new study.
Researchers calculated stroke risk among nearly 23,000 black and white Americans aged 45 and older. Their risk was assessed using the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 health factors: be active, control cholesterol, eat a healthy diet, manage blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, control blood sugar, and don't smoke.
During five years of follow-up, 432 strokes occurred among the participants. All seven factors played an important role in predicting stroke risk, but blood pressure was the most important, according to the study, which was published in the journal Stroke.
"Compared to those with poor blood pressure status, those who were ideal had a 60 percent lower risk of future stroke," study senior author Mary Cushman, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington, said in a journal news release.
Dr. Cushman and her colleagues also found that people who didn't smoke or quit smoking more than a year before the start of the study had a 40 percent lower stroke risk.
For the study, the researchers categorized the participants' Life's Simple 7 scores as inadequate (zero to four points), average (five to nine points) or optimum (10 to 14 points).
Every one-point increase was associated with an 8 percent lower stroke risk. People with optimum scores had a 48 percent lower risk than those with inadequate scores, and those with average scores had a 27 percent lower risk.
Overall, blacks had lower scores than whites, but the association between scores and stroke risk was similar for blacks and whites.
"This highlights the critical importance of improving these health factors since blacks have nearly twice the stroke mortality rates as whites," Dr. Cushman said.
Each year, about 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke, which is the No. 4 killer and a leading cause of long-term disability in the country, according to the American Heart Association.