Are Nine out of Ten Strokes Preventable?

A New Study Has Found That The Top 10 Risk Factors For Stroke Are Preventable.


Canadian researchers estimated around 9 out of 10 strokes worldwide, including among people in the UK, could be caused by the 10 risk factors below – many of which can be avoided.  Strokes are a major health problem in the UK. Every year, around 110,000 people in England have a stroke. The condition is the third largest cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

The study, undertaken by INTERSTROKE and published in The Lancet, supports the notion that lifestyle factors have a huge influence on our health.  This study compared the lifestyles of people who had a stroke with those who had not, involving nearly 27,000 participants from 32 countries.  It is important to note that much of the study's data is based on self-reported answers, and some answers may be inaccurate.

While we can't change our genetics or risk factors such as age or gender, this study provides further evidence to support the advice that a healthy diet and active lifestyle, not smoking and limiting alcohol intake give us the best chance of reducing our risk of stroke and other chronic diseases.

The researchers calculated that overall, these 10 risk factors could account for 90.7% of all the strokes in the study. That is, if everyone acted on these risk factors, the number of strokes in this sample would plummet by 90%.

The 10 main risk factors for stroke are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Too much alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart problems
  • Obesity
  • Stress

Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK comments: “It is shocking to think that 90% of all strokes that have already occurred could have been prevented.  However it is heartening to know that, with an excellent stroke prevention campaign, in particular by lowering the Nation’s blood pressure, we could avert 90% of strokes from occurring in the future.

“Starting now, we should eat a healthy, low salt diet, and lead an active lifestyle, avoid smoking and limit our alcohol intake to give us the best chance of reducing our risk of having a stroke.”

When looking at different types of stroke, some factors – such as high blood pressure – were more strongly associated with haemorrhagic stroke, while others – such as smoking, diabetes and blood fats – were more strongly associated with ischaemic stroke.

The following were linked with increased risk:

High blood pressure (over 140/90mmhg) (odds ratio [OR] 2.98, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.72 to 3.28)

Current smoking (OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.49 to 1.87)

High alcohol intake (OR 2.09, 95% CI 1.64 to 2.67)

High waist-to-hip ratio (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.64)

High apolipoproteins B/A1 ratio (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.65 to 2.06)

Diabetes (OR 1.16, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.30)

Psychosocial factors (INTERHEART stress score) (OR 2.20, 95% CI 1.78 to 2.72)

Heart factors (combined) (OR 3.17, 95% CI 2.68 to 3.75)

A healthy diet and being active were linked with decreased risk:

High diet modified alternative healthy eating index (Mahei) score indicating healthier cardiovascular diet (OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.67)

Regular physical activity (OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.52 to 0.70)

Read more:

Feigin, Valery L et al.  Global burden of stroke and risk factors in 188 countries, during 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.  The Lancet Neurology, Volume 15 , Issue 9 , 913 – 924

Stroke is a burdensome but preventable brain disorder

(Vladimir Hachinskiemail, Mahmoud Reza Azarpazhooh)