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4 Healthy Lifestyle Changes
After nearly ten years of studying more than 6,000 diverse men and women, researchers believe they’ve pinpointed the four lifestyle changes that will greatly reduce the risk of death.
Dr. Haitham Ahmed, an internal medicine resident with the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues found adopting the four lifestyle behaviors protect against coronary heart disease as well as the early buildup of calcium deposits in heart arteries. They found the changes reduce the chance of death from all causes by 80 percent over an eight-year period. The four lifestyle changes include a Mediterranean diet, exercise, normal weight and not smoking — all known to help prevent heart disease.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to find a protective association between low-risk lifestyle factors and early signs of vascular disease, coronary heart disease and death, in a single longitudinal evaluation,” Ahmed, the lead author, said.
“We evaluated data on more than 6,200 men and women, ages 44-84, from white, African-American, Hispanic and Chinese backgrounds. All were followed for an average of 7.6 years. Those who adopted all four healthy behaviors had an 80 percent lower death rate over that time period compared to participants with none of the healthy behaviors.”
“Of all the lifestyle factors, we found that smoking avoidance played the largest role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality,” says Roger Blumenthal, M.D., a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, director of the Ciccarone Center and senior author of the study. “In fact, smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviors still had lower survival rates after 7.6 years than did nonsmokers who were sedentary and obese.”
Blumenthal, who is also the president of the American Heart Association’s Maryland affiliate, says the findings “bolster recent recommendations by the American Heart Association, which call for maintaining a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish, keeping a BMI of less than 25, being physically active and not smoking.”
The researchers emphasize that their study shows the importance of healthy lifestyle habits not just for reducing the risk of heart disease, but also for preventing mortality from all causes.
The study participants took part in the ongoing Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a prospective examination of the risk factors, prevalence and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Results of the study, “Low-Risk Lifestyle, Coronary Calcium, Cardiovascular Events, and Mortality: Results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis,” are described in an online article posted June 3, 2013 by the American Journal of Epidemiology.