Lower heart attack risk with these healthy habits, studies say

Heart Health

by Steve Jacob

Feb 4, 2015

Regardless of your gender, healthy living makes a dramatic difference in your risk of a heart attack, a fact reinforced by two recent studies.

A study published last month of nearly 90,000 women found that young women could prevent three-quarters of heart attacks by following six healthy lifestyle practices.

“Although mortality rates from heart disease in the U.S. have been in steady decline for the last four decades, women aged 35-44 have not experienced the same reduction,” Andrea K. Chomistek, a researcher from the Indiana University School of Public Health and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “This disparity may be explained by unhealthy lifestyle choices.”

The healthy practices included not smoking, maintaining a normal body mass index, physical activity of at least 2.5 hours a week, watching seven or fewer hours of television a week, averaging no more than one alcoholic drink a day and maintaining a healthy diet. Some practices — not smoking, adequate physical activity, healthy diet and normal weight — each lowered the risk for heart disease. Researchers found that women who adhered to all six healthy lifestyle practices had a 92 percent lower risk of heart attack and a 66 percent lower risk of developing a risk factor for heart disease.

A separate study in September of 20,000 Swedish men age 45-79 found that five healthy habits lowered the risk of heart attack by 86 percent. Those habits included not smoking, eating a healthy diet, averaging no more than two drinks a day exercising at least 40 minutes a day and having a waist size of less than 37 inches.

These researchers also found a clear reduction in risk for heart attack for each individual lifestyle factor the participants practiced.

“It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks. What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors,” said lead author Agneta Åkesson.

In both studies, people who had developed high blood pressure or high cholesterol were able to lower their heart attack risk by practicing healthy habits.

Related: Are you at risk for heart disease?

Deepika Gopal, MD, a clinical cardiologist with The Heart Group who is on the medical staff at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, said, “Both studies show us that healthy lifestyle habits work for both men and women in decreasing risk for cardiovascular events. I believe adding stress management techniques to these healthy habits may help in further lowering risk in both men and women.”

About the Author

Steve is a senior marketing and public relations consultant for Baylor Scott & White Health. He spent nearly four decades in newspaper and magazine editorial and business management and is the author of two books on healthcare reform. He was also the founding editor of D Magazine's D Healthcare Daily.

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