We all know that heart disease is one of the most frightening things out there and that Americans spend billions of dollars on medications to treat it. For some people, it’s genetic and could be problematic no matter what they do. But what if there was something that could help?
There are some factors that play a key role when it comes to heart disease and researchers have found that there are some simple lifestyle changes that could help control it: physical activity, healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, etc.
Traditionally, those at low risk are treated with lifestyle changes, while those at high risk get more intensive therapy. A new study in The New England Journal of Medicine argues that this approach may be wrong.
Researchers gathered data by looking at the relationships between various risk factors and heart disease. They also looked at how four lifestyle factors were associated with the outcomes. These included not smoking cigarettes, not being obese (having a B.M.I. less than 30), being physically active at least once a week and following a healthful diet consisting of eating more fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, fish and dairy products and eating less refined grains, processed meats, unprocessed red meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fats and sodium. This study found that every one of the 4-lifestyle factors listed above was associated with a decreased risk of coronary events.
Researchers divided people into three groups and monitored them for 10 years. One group practiced a favorable lifestyle (3 of the 4 lifestyle factors), another the intermediate lifestyle (2 of the lifestyle factors) and the third was an unfavorable lifestyle (1 or none of the lifestyle factors). Those with an unfavorable lifestyle had a risk that was 71 percent to 121 percent higher than those with a favorable lifestyle.
So, what happened?
As you probably guessed, the results were surprising. Those with a favorable lifestyle, compared with those with an unfavorable lifestyle, had a 45 percent reduction in coronary events among those at low genetic risk, a 47 percent reduction among those with intermediate genetic risk, and a 46 percent reduction among those at high genetic risk.
When the results of the study are transformed into numbers, it is clear that among those at high genetic risk in the study, 10.7% could expect to have a coronary event over a 10-year period when living an unfavorable lifestyle. On the flip side, the risk is only at 5.8% for people with low genetic risk to heart disease and an unfavorable lifestyle and as low as 3.1% when they live a favorable lifestyle.
This brings us to the conclusion that there are many lessons to be learned from this study. These results should show us that genetics do not determine everything about our health. Simple changes in lifestyle can overcome much of the risk our DNA places on us, not to mention lower the risks of other diseases like cancer.
So, are you in for improving your lifestyle and lowering your chance of heart disease?
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