The American Heart Association has estimated that as much as 80% of all cardiovascular disease is preventable. Recent research confirms this to be true when it comes to heart attacks in men.
In the September 30, 2014 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers published results of a study that examined the effects of healthy diet and lifestyle habits on the prevention of heart attack in men.
This study looked at nearly 21,000 Swedish men who were 45 to 79 years old, focusing on men who had no prior history of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels. The researchers followed these men for 11 years and took into account their diet and lifestyle habits.
To be considered “low-risk,” behavior had to include five factors: a healthy diet, moderate consumption of alcohol (no more than 30 g/day), no smoking, no abdominal adiposity (waist circumference within normal range), and being physically active (walking/cycling at least 40 minutes per day and exercising at least one hour per week, or the equivalent).
During the 11 years of follow up, the investigators found that men who had all five low-risk factors reduced their risk of having a heart attack by 86% compared to men who had no low-risk factors. After adjusting for other variables, the study authors concluded that nearly 4 out of 5 heart attacks in men may be preventable.
Again, this confirms the wisdom of heart-healthy lifestyle advice, the impact of which cannot be underestimated when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease. Several previous studies from across the globe, including the continents of North America, Europe, and Asia, have resulted in similar findings.
Thus, basic lifestyle changes can go a long way in restoring and preserving health. Of interest regarding the aforementioned current study is that the benefits observed were a result of eating more healthy foods, not eating fewer unhealthy foods. In other words, the benefits of eating a higher quantity of healthful foods such as whole fruits and vegetables were seen regardless of any difference in intake of less healthful foods such as red and processed meats, white bread, fried potatoes, solid fats, and sweets.
As one expert, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, commented in regard to this study, in an accompanying editorial, “These findings highlight the primacy of healthy lifestyle.” Definitely food for thought!
Yasmine S. Ali, MD, MSCI, FACC, FACP, is President of Nashville Preventive Cardiology, PLLC, in Nashville, TN. She is board-certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, as well as in clinical lipidology and nuclear cardiology. She is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and of the American College of Physicians. She graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2001, and has made it her career’s work to follow her passion for preventing cardiovascular disease and improving heart health for as many people as possible. In addition, Dr. Ali is also the Physician Expert for the Obesity site for www.obesity.about.com. Each month she will be contributing an educational piece on preventing cardiovascular disease. To learn more about Dr. Ali, visit www.preventivecardio.com.