Healthier lifestyle '˜could prevent most strokes occurring'

Strokes could be largely preventable as the majority are caused by modifiable risk factors such as high blood pressure, according to a major international study.

Stopping smoking could help prevent a stroke. Picture: John Devlin
Stopping smoking could help prevent a stroke. Picture: John Devlin

Analysis of more than 27,000 people globally found that high blood pressure and nine other risk factors accounted for 90 per cent of strokes.

Smoking, obesity, poor diet and stress are among other preventable causes of stroke, according to the study published in The Lancet.

Stroke is the third biggest killer and a leading cause of disability in Scotland.

The research comes after a stroke care audit found a “significant disparity” in provision across Scotland.


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Glasgow University academic Professor Peter Langhorne, national co-ordinator on the study, said the findings show stroke is “highly preventable”.

He said: “One of the interesting things the study found was such a large proportion of strokes were caused by these ten factors that we know about.

“It is highly preventable and these modifiable risk factors really identify a target for government and health bodies.

“This is really a public health issue, so it’s about promoting healthy lifestyles and better access to healthy foods and exercise.”


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The study recruited patients from Tayside, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and more than 30 countries other than Scotland. Risk factors varied by region, as drinking alcohol and inactivity were more likely to lead to stroke in Africa, south Asia and China than in Western Europe or North America.

Ten per cent of strokes were caused by factors that could not be easily identified.

Dr Shamim Quadir, of the Stroke Association, said: “The study encourages global stroke prevention programmes. It also recommends programmes which take into account variations in these stroke risk factors by region, as they are further tailored to help the local community.

“It is already well known that stopping smoking, eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise can all help keep your blood pressure under control, and greatly reduce your risk of having a stroke.”