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How healthy lifestyle helps cut stroke risk

Friday October 26th, 2018

A healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of stroke, even among those who have a high genetic risk of the condition, international research has found.

An observational study involved the development of a genetic risk score, based on 90 gene variants that are known to be associated with stroke from 306,473 white men and women in the UK Biobank.

All those in the study were aged between 40 and 73 years and had no history of stroke or heart attack. A healthy lifestyle was based: non-smoker; diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish; not overweight or obese (body mass index less than 30); and regular physical exercise.

The researchers then used hospital and death records to identify stroke events over an average follow-up of seven years and they found that across all categories of genetic risk and lifestyle, the risk of stroke was higher in men than women.

The findings were published in The BMJ yesterday by a team led by Dr Loes Rutten-Jacobs, of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative diseases, Bonn, Germany.

They show that the risk of stroke was 35% higher among those at high genetic risk compared with those at low genetic risk, irrespective of lifestyle.

They also found that a less healthy lifestyle was associated with a 66% increased risk of stroke compared with a healthy one, while a high genetic risk combined with an unhealthier lifestyle profile was associated with a more than two-fold increased risk of stroke compared with a low genetic risk and a favourable lifestyle.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “DNA alone does not necessarily determine destiny. Our risk of developing disease is often down to a combination of our genes, our environment and our lifestyle. This research suggests that, regardless of whether your genes put you at higher or lower risk of suffering a stroke, adopting a healthy lifestyle reduces the overall risk.”

Rutten-Jacobs L, Larsson S, Malik R et al. Genetic risk, incident stroke, and the benefits of adhering to a healthy lifestyle: cohort study of 306473 UK Biobank participants. BMJ 24 October 2018; doi:10.1136/bmj.k4168

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Diet & Food | Europe | Fitness | Heart Health | UK News

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