June 5, 2013

Minor changes in cardiovascular health reduce chances of stroke

A report, published in Stroke, showed that small improvements in cardiovascular risk factors reduce the chances a person will suffer a stroke. The report is part of an ongoing national study called Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) which is funded by NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Strokes are caused by abnormal changes in blood flow in the brain or the bursting of brain blood vessels. Previous studies suggest that strokes can be prevented by reducing risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. In 2010, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association defined seven critical risk factors as: elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose, obesity, current smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet and then used them to create a cardiovascular health score called Life's Simple 7 (LS7). Each factor was scored as 0 (poor compliance), 1 (intermediate compliance), or 2 (ideal compliance), with resulting overall total scores grouped into three categories such that a score of 0-4 indicates poor cardiovascular health, 5-9 average health, and 10-14 represents optimal health.

For this study, researchers measured the relationship between these scores and the occurrence of stroke in over 22,000 subjects in the REGARDS study enrolled between 2003 to 2007. The results showed that an increase in even one point on the overall LS7 scorecard reduced the chances a subject would have a stroke within 5 years by eight percent and an improvement in one category, for example from average to optimal, reduced the chances by 25 percent. These increases affected white and black subjects equally.

This page last reviewed on April 20, 2015