A report published online in the journal Circulation on July 3, 2006 concluded that coronary events in older American men could be prevented in large part by adopting just five healthy lifestyle habits. The study is the first to examine the role of a healthy lifestyle in heart disease prevention among middle aged and older men.
Associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition Eric B. Rimm and research fellow Stephanie Chiuve of Harvard School of Public Health, and their colleagues conducted a 16 year follow-up of 42,847 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which enrolled 51,529 male health professionals aged 40 to 75 in 1986. Questionnaires administered every two years provided updated information on medical conditions such as hypertension and elevated cholesterol, medication use, and lifestyle factors. Healthy lifestyle factors were defined as not smoking, daily moderate to vigorous exercise, consuming alcohol in moderation, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming a healthy diet as based on the Harvard School of Public Health Alternate Healthy Eating Index.
Over the follow-up period there were 2,183 cases of nonfatal heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease. Participants whose questionnaire responses concerning all five healthy lifestyle practices placed them in the low risk category had an 87 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to men who adhered to none of the five factors. Adopting at least two factors lowered risk by 27 percent.
The researchers estimated that 62 percent of the coronary events that occurred could have been prevented by adherence to the five lifestyle practices. Even men being treated for hypertension or cholesterol with drugs for these conditions could have had 57 percent of coronary events prevented by these improvements.
“A healthy lifestyle can be an effective, non pharmacological approach to reducing coronary heart disease among men,” the authors conclude. Dr Cuive commented, “It’s never too late to make changes to become healthier.”
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