The latest research proves, once again, the value of health-aware organic living.

According to a report in the July 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, women who are nonsmokers, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet (including moderate alcohol consumption) and otherwise live a healthy lifestyle may have a reduced risk of stroke.

About 700,000 Americans suffer strokes each year. Approximately 25% are fatal, and another 25% leave patients disabled. Risk factors include smoking, lack of exercise and high body mass index (BMI).

Over a 10-year period, Dr. Tobias Kurth and colleagues at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health studied the association between healthy lifestyles and stroke risk in more than 37,000 women age 45 or older.

At the beginning of the study, the women answered questions about their smoking habits, alcohol consumption, diet, exercise routine and body mass index. Researchers then assigned them a health index score from 0 to 20, with higher scores indicating a healthier lifestyle. Healthy behavior was defined as never smoking, consuming four to 10½  alcoholic drinks per week, exercising four or more times per week, having a BMI less than 22 and maintaining a healthy diet (rich in cereal fiber, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated vs. saturated and trans fats).

Over the study period, 450 women suffered strokes. The 4.7% who had a health index score of 17 to 20 had a significantly lower risk than those who started with a score of 0 to 4.

“Our findings show the importance of healthy behaviors in the prevention of stroke,” the authors conclude.

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