July 2013

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Health Capsule

Looking at Your Risk of Stroke

A simple set of questions for checking your heart health might also help predict your stroke risk, a new study suggests. The finding hints that even small improvements to your lifestyle might help prevent strokes.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death nationwide. It occurs when blood vessels that supply the brain become ruptured or blocked. When blood can’t carry nutrients and oxygen to brain cells, the cells stop functioning and die.

A list of 7 key health factors—called Life’s Simple 7 (LS7)—was developed by the American Heart Association to assess health status. LS7 score is measured by looking at the 7 factors: physical activity, diet, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and smoking. Each of these factors can be categorized as ideal (high score), average (medium score) or poor (low score). A high score on the LS7 has been linked to low rates of cardiovascular disease and death.

NIH-funded scientists tested to see if the LS7 score could also assess stroke risk. They studied nearly 23,000 people with an average age of 65 years. The researchers found that each “better” category for overall LS7 score corresponded to a 25% drop in stroke risk. Even participants with only one “ideal” factor had a lower stroke risk compared to those with none.

Health status varied widely for each of the 7 factors. For example, most participants (84%) had an ideal status for smoking, but none (0%) had an ideal diet.

The findings suggest that you might reduce stroke risk by improving 1 or more of these 7 factors. Get active; eat healthy foods; have a healthy weight; don’t smoke; control cholesterol; manage blood pressure; and keep blood glucose in check. Learn more about Life’s Simple 7 and use the free assessment tool at this American Heart Association website: mylifecheck.heart.org.