Results of a Pilot Trial of a Lifestyle Intervention for Stroke Survivors: Healthy Eating and Lifestyle after Stroke

Amytis Towfighi, Eric M. Cheng, Valerie A. Hill, Frances Barry, Martin Lee, Natalie P. Valle, Brian Mittman, Monica Ayala-Rivera, Lilian Moreno, Annaliese Espinosa, Heidi Dombish, Debbie Wang, Dina Ochoa, Allison Chu, Michal Atkins, Barbara G. Vickrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: Although healthy lifestyle practices mitigate recurrent stroke risk and mortality, few stroke survivors adhere to them, particularly among socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. We developed and pilot tested a occupational therapy-based lifestyle management intervention, Healthy Eating And Lifestyle after Stroke (HEALS), to improve stroke survivors’ self-management skills relating to diet and physical activity and evaluated it in a diverse safety-net population. Materials and Methods: One hundred English- or Spanish-speaking participants with stroke or transient ischemic attack were randomized to a 6-week occupational therapist-led group lifestyle intervention vs. usual care. Each of the six 2-h group sessions included didactic presentations on diet and physical activity, peer exchange, personal exploration with goal setting, and direct experience through participation in a relevant activity. Primary outcomes at 6 months were change in body mass index, fruit/vegetable intake, and physical activity. Secondary outcomes included change in waist circumference, smoking, blood pressure, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, triglyceride, total cholesterol, glycosylated hemoglobin levels, quality of care, and perceptions of care. Effect sizes were determined in preparation for a larger randomized controlled trial powered to detect a difference in primary outcomes. A nested formative evaluation assessed facilitators and barriers to implementation, acceptance, and intervention adherence. Results: There were no significant changes in primary or secondary outcomes at 6 months. Effect sizes for all outcomes were small (< 0.2). Focus group participants recommended extending the intervention program duration with more sessions, additional information on stroke and vascular risk factors, an interdisciplinary approach, additional family involvement, and incentives. Providers recommended longer program duration, more training, fidelity checks to ensure standardized program delivery, and additional incentives for participants. Conclusions: The HEALS intervention was feasible in a safety-net setting, but effect sizes were small. A longer-duration intervention, with intervener fidelity checks may be warranted. Trial Registration: NCT01550822.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105323
JournalJournal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Lifestyle
  • Physical activity
  • Prevention
  • Stroke


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