Healthy lifestyle offsets genetic risk of Stroke
A healthy lifestyle overrules even genetic risk of Stroke according to a new study.
Lifestyle interventions like stopping smoking and not being overweight and sticking to a healthy lifestyle reduce the risk of stroke irrespective of genetic profile finds a study in The BMJ today.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is a major cause of death and disability Globally. It is supposed to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors, including diet and lifestyle.
In an observational study, a team of researchers decided to evaluate whether a genetic risk score for stroke is associated with an actual disease or not in a large population of British adults.
The researches searched a database of biological information from half a million British adults. In all 306,473 white men and women in the UK Biobank were studied and a genetic risk score, based on 90 gene variants known to be associated with stroke was developed.
The subjects were aged between 40 and 73 years and had no history of stroke or heart attack. The adherence to a healthy lifestyle was based on four main factors
- Having a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish,
- Not overweight or obese (body mass index less than 30),
- Regular physical exercise.
The records pertaining to hospital and death were then used to identify stroke events over an average follow-up of 7 years. It was noted that across all categories of genetic risk and lifestyle, the risk of stroke was higher in men than women. The researchers found that high genetic risk combined with an unfavourable lifestyle profile was associated with a more than twofold increased risk compared with a low genetic risk and a favourable lifestyle. Other findings include
- Risk of stroke was 35% higher among those at high genetic risk compared with those at low genetic risk, irrespective of lifestyle.
- an unfavourable lifestyle was associated with a 66% increased risk compared with a favourable lifestyle, and this increased risk was present within any genetic risk category.
These findings “highlight the potential of lifestyle measures to reduce the risk of stroke across entire populations, even in those at high genetic risk,” say the researchers. Among the lifestyle factors, the most significant associations were seen for smoking and being overweight or obese.
Being an observational study, no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Moreover, results may not apply more generally because the study was restricted to people of European descent. In future, a large sample size enabled study may settle the issue.