Lifestyle and stroke risk: a review

Curr Opin Neurol. 2009 Feb;22(1):60-8. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0b013e32831fda0e.


Purpose of review: In recent years, many epidemiological studies have given new insights into old and new lifestyle factors that influence the risk of cerebrovascular events. In this review, we refer to the most important articles to highlight recent advances, especially those important for stroke prevention.

Recent findings: This review focuses on the most recent studies that show the association of environmental factors, nutrition, alcohol, tobacco, education, lifestyle and behavior with the risk of vascular disease, including ischemic stroke and cerebral hemorrhage. The link between air pollution and stroke risk has become evident. Low education levels and depression are established as risk factors. This is also true for heavy alcohol consumption, although moderate drinking may be protective. Active and passive smoking are independent risk factors, and a smoking ban in public places has already reduced cardiovascular events in the short term. Physical activity reduces stroke risk; overweight increases it. However, clinical trials to assess the effect of weight reduction on stroke risk are still lacking. Fruits, vegetables, fish, fibers, low-fat dairy products, potassium and low sodium consumption are known and recommended to reduce cardiovascular risk. Data on omega 3 fatty acid, folic acid and B vitamins are inconsistent, and antioxidants are not recommended.

Summary: Stroke can be substantially reduced by an active lifestyle, cessation of smoking and a healthy diet. Both public and professional education should promote the awareness that a healthy lifestyle and nutrition have the potential to reduce the burden of stroke.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Body Weight
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diet
  • Environment
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Vitamin B Complex / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin B Complex