Healthy lifestyle interventions can reduce people’s chance of having a stroke, even if they are at high genetic risk. This is according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The 306,473 participants were aged between 40 and 73 years and had no history of stroke or heart attack. Adherence to a healthy lifestyle was based on four factors: non-smoker, diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish, not overweight or obese (body mass index less than 30), and regular physical exercise.
Risk of stroke was 35 per cent higher among those at high genetic risk compared with those at low genetic risk, irrespective of lifestyle. However, an unfavourable lifestyle was associated with a 66 per cent increased risk of stroke compared with a favourable lifestyle, and this increased risk was present within any genetic risk category.
Across all categories of genetic risk and lifestyle, the risk of stroke was higher in men than women.
These findings highlight the benefit for entire populations of adhering to a healthy lifestyle, independent of genetic risk, say the researchers. The study found that stopping smoking and not being overweight were of particular benefit in reducing stroke risk.