Study: Healthy living outweighs genetics for stroke risk

Many of us know whether or not we have a genetic risk for suffering a stroke.

But a recent study looks to uncover what matters more when it comes stroke risk – our genes, or our lifestyle habits.

The study looked at 306,473 adults between the ages of 40-73.

Researchers found that those with genetic risk factors had a 35 percent higher risk of suffering a stroke.

However, people who had unfavorable lifestyle factors such as smoking, diabetes, and poor diet actually had a 66 percent increased risk of stroke, even without a genetic predisposition.

“No matter how predisposed you are, genetically, to having a stroke, if you live healthier, you actually have a better chance of not having a stroke, and also heart attacks as well,” said Pravin George, D.O. of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study.

Dr. George said the results show us that our lifestyle factors carry a lot of weight when it comes to our risk for suffering a stroke.

He said one lifestyle factor that made a considerable impact was whether a person smoked.

The study showed that smokers had double the risk of stroke than non-smokers.

“Quit smoking if you are a smoker, and if you know somebody who smokes, have them quit as well,” said Dr. George. “Smoking seems to be one of the greatest risk factors for stroke.”

Dr. George said the good news is that lifestyle factors can be modified, so there are steps we can take to reduce our stroke risk.

And the more healthy habits we can combine together – the better, as the study shows that people who practiced multiple healthy habits had less risk than those who only practiced one.

Complete results of the study can be found in The BMJ.