Having a stroke is a life changing experience for most people and among those who survive a stroke there’s always the fear of a stroke recurrence. In a study published in the journal Stroke, researchers found that the combined risk of stroke recurrence or death among a group of inner city residents of various ethnicities was as high as sixty-five percent. Fortunately, a new study points out some simple lifestyle factors that lower the risk of a stroke survivor dying prematurely – not only from stroke, but from all causes. The good news? Almost anyone can do them.
Lowering the Risk of Stroke Death among Stroke Survivors
When researchers looked at the lifestyle habits of 388 older stroke survivors – mostly white and female – they found five healthy lifestyle factors that reduced the risk of stroke death after being diagnosed with a stroke. Stroke survivors who followed these five lifestyle habits most closely were the least likely to die prematurely – not only from a stroke recurrence – but from all causes. The response was dose dependent too. Stroke survivors who followed all five of these habits were the least likely to die while those practicing only three or four had a slightly higher risk of dying early.
What are these five lifestyle habits?
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
People surviving a stroke in this study had a lower risk of stroke death if they maintained a healthy body weight. In this group, seventy percent of long term stroke survivors had a BMI of between 18.5 and 29.9. Obesity increases the risk, but being too underweight may not be good for a stroke survivor either.
Exercise is a good prescription for most ailments and the key to longevity for some – including stroke survivors. In this study, those who exercised more than twelve times a month had a lower risk of stroke death and death from all causes. Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult to be beneficial. A brisk walk every other day has considerable benefits for people who survive a stroke.
Go for the Green
Green is good when it comes to living long after a stroke. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day was a habit practiced by forty percent of stroke survivors in this study. Start by saying “no” to processed foods, watch the salt, and choose more fresh fruits and vegetables to lower the risk of a stroke recurrence – and an early death.
Kick the Habit
Smoking may be a temporary stress reliever, but the risks of smoking for a stroke survivor are far too high to justify. If smoking calms you, find other ways to relax – such as practicing meditation or yoga. Give cigarettes the heave-ho.
Alcohol Only in Moderation
The long term stroke survivors in this study either didn’t drink or used alcohol only modestly. Alcohol has some cardiovascular benefits in moderation – but stick to a cup of red wine a day – or stay away entirely.
The Bottom Line
The two lifestyle factors in this study that were most important for reducing the risk of stroke death was kicking the smoking habit and exercising – but it’s important to practice all five of these healthy lifestyle habits. Whether or not you’ve had a stroke, these are lifestyle choices anyone can benefit from. Put them into practice – and live longer.