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10 risk factors cause 90% of strokes, study finds

More than 90 per cent of strokes can be attributed to 10 common risk factors, a new Canadian-led study shows.

The research, published in Friday's edition of The Lancet, found that high blood pressure poses by far the greatest risk, but that smoking, obesity (particularly around the belly), inactivity and stress can also pose significant dangers. A large percentage of people who suffered ischemic stroke also had high levels of lipids (or fat) in their blood, as measured by a test known as the ApoB:ApoA1 ratio.

The research team, led by Salim Yusuf of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, looked at both ischemic stroke, in which a clot blocks blood flow to the brain, and hemorrhagic stroke, in which a blood vessel ruptures.

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The study, dubbed Interstroke, was conducted from March, 2007, to April, 2010, and involved more than 6,000 people in 22 countries, half of whom suffered a stroke.

Antoine Hakim, CEO and scientific director of the Canadian Stroke Network, said the findings are illuminating and underscore the value of investing in prevention.

"Stroke prevention programs targeting these common risk factors will have a significant impact in reducing the incidence of disease," he said.

Dr. Yusuf agreed and noted that the risk factors for stroke are very similar to those for heart disease.

Strokes killed 14,054 Canadians in 2005, the most recent year for which data are available from Statistics Canada. Stroke is also a leading cause of disability.

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