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Healthy lifestyle trumps genetics to reduce stroke risk

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A healthy lifestyle can almost halve the chances of a stroke even in those whose genetic makeup puts them at a far higher risk.

Eating a healthy diet and exercising can combat genetic risk factors that can make a person more likely to suffer a stroke, say researchers from the University of Texas.

They tracked the heart health and lifestyles of 11,568 people for an average of 28 years, and those who followed the American Heart Association’s Simple 7 guidelines—eat better, exercise, stop smoking, lose weight, lower blood pressure levels, lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood-sugar intake, usually from processed foods—lowered their stroke risk, and lived a longer and healthier life.

Even those born with a high genetic risk profile for stroke reduced their risk by as much as 45 percent, which is the equivalent of adding six years to someone’s life.

Overall, 58percent of those who followed the fewest of the Simple 7 guidelines suffered a stroke compared to just 6 percent of those who followed all seven recommendations.

In the US, 796,000 people died from a stroke every year, which equates to an attack every 40 seconds, and someone dying from a stroke every three-and-a-half minutes.

Journal of the American Heart Association, 2022; doi: 10.1161/JAHA.122.025703

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