New analysis finds lifestyle and medication key to combating stroke

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Lifestyle changes and medication are more effective in combating the risk of stroke than invasive procedures, according to a new Monash University study.

A researcher at the university has analysed more than four decades of data relating to common treatments for advanced carotid artery stenosis, one of the leading causes of stroke, and found surgery and stents have comparatively limited impact in preventing stroke. 

Carotid artery stenosis is a disease caused by the build-up of fatty deposits (plaques) in the main artery that delivers blood to the brain. The disease affects one in 10 people by age 80 and it is a major cause of stroke.

The Monash analysis, published in Frontiers in Neurology, found that lifestyle factors - such as diet, exercise and quitting smoking - had a significant impact in reducing stroke risk when combined with appropriate medication.

According to the analysis, the stroke risk in symptom-free patients with advanced carotid stenosis fell by at least 65 per cent to 1 per cent or less in those using non-invasive measures alone.

Study author Associate Professor Anne Abbott from Monash’s Central Clinical School said the findings dispel a common misconception that surgery or stenting is the best treatment for carotid artery stenosis.

Associate Professor Abbott said, “People need to understand that they have the greatest power to prevent their own stroke. Healthy life habits, including physical activity, diet and quitting smoking, combined with appropriate medication, help mitigate major risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and very effectively reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.”