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Top 10 stroke risk factors identified

Top 10 stroke risk factors identified Behind 90% of cases

Ten factors have been identified which account for 90 per cent of the risk of having a stroke.

The deadly 10 are:

  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • waist-to-hip ratio (abdominal obesity)
  • diet
  • physical activity
  • lipids (fats)
  • diabetes mellitus
  • alcohol intake
  • stress and depression
  • heart disorders

Of these the first 5 factors accounted for 80% of the risk. This is important because all of them can be modified by lifestyle and behaviour choices.

A stroke is caused when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed, for instance by a blocked or burst blood vessel. It is one of the leading causes of adult death in the UK and the rest of the world.

The study looked at over 6,000 people in 22 countries over a period of three years. Half of the study participants were people who had suffered a stroke for the first time, the other half were a control group with no history of stroke. The control group was chosen to match with the stroke sufferers group by age and sex.

All participants completed a detailed questionnaire and underwent a physical examination, and most provided a blood and/or urine sample.

The 10 factors identified from the study accounted for 90% of the so-called "population attributable risk" (PAR) for all types of stroke.

All of the factors were also linked to the risk of a ischaemic stroke (caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain), whereas high blood pressure, smoking, waist-to-hip ratio, diet, and alcohol intake were significant risk factors for intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain tissue).

When analysed individually, high blood pressure was the most important factor for stroke, since it was associated with one-third of the risk of all stroke. Smokers were at double the risk of stroke compared with non-smokers, and smoking was associated with one in five strokes

This study, called the INTERSTROKE study, is run by scientists from McMaster University in Canada. They also run a related study, the INTERHEART study, which looks at the causes of heart attack. This has found that 9 of the 10 factors in the INTERSTROKE study are the same as in the INTERHEART study.

The results are published by the Lancet in print and online, and is presented at The World Congress of Cardiology, Beijing by Dr Martin J O’Donnell and Dr Salim Yusuf.

This article was published on Fri 18 June 2010

Image © James Steidl - Fotolia.com

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