According to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, maintaining good cardiovascular health can lower one’s lifetime risk of stroke by up to 43%, which corresponds to about 6 additional years of life without a stroke.
The study included over 11,500 participants ages 45-64 who had not had a stroke and followed them for a median of 28 years. Genetic tests and an evaluation of heart health called the “Life’s Simple 7” were used to estimate the lifetime risk of stroke for the participants. While genetics played a role in the participants’ risk of stroke, those with optimal cardiovascular health lowered their risk of stroke by 30% to 43%. In contrast, those with low levels of cardiovascular health suffered the most strokes in the study (56.8%). People with high genetic risk of stroke and low levels of cardiovascular health had the greatest lifetime risk of having a stroke at about 25%.
The senior author of the study noted that these results confirm that modifying lifestyle factors can offset one’s genetic risk of having a stroke. This information could be used to target those at a genetically higher risk of having a stroke and encourage them to make lifestyle changes to lower their risk.
Even for those who are not at high genetic risk of having a stroke, following the AHA’s recommendations for optimal heart health can lower stroke risk while also improving other areas of health. The seven areas that the American Heart Association considers essential for heart health, measured in Life’s Simple 7, include not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; eating a healthy diet; participating in regular physical activity; and maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.