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Researchers Show That Lifestyle Changes Will Reduce Heart Disease and Mortality

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Lifestyle Changes Will Reduce Heart Disease and Mortality

The newest research led by scientists from Johns Hopkins reveals that there is a significant connection between the health of the heart and several lifestyle habits. Their study brings more evidence to support key factors in a patient’s lifestyle, such as a normal weight, a Mediterranean-like diet, regular physical exercise and not smoking. The study was published in the journal American Journal of Epidemiology at the start of this week.

The research team discovered that these 4 lifestyle habits protect the patients against the build-up of calcium in the arteries and against coronary heart disease. Furthermore, the paper reveals that the mortality of patients that follow these lifestyle factors was significantly decreased, by up to 80% over 8 years. “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”, reported the lead author of the study, Haitham Ahmed, an internal medicine resident within the Johns Hopkins.

The data of approximately 6,200 patients between the ages of 44 and 84, was evaluated. Patients of African-American, Hispanic, Chinese and Caucasian descend were included in the study and were followed for approximately 7.6 years. According to Ahmed, the patients who followed the healthy habits mentioned earlier showed a decrease in mortality of approximately 80% over the follow-up period. The patients, who were already participating in the MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) study, were recruited from 6 academic medical centers from the United States, with the condition that they had not been diagnosed with any cardiovascular disease prior to their enrollment in the study.

AHA Recommendations

AHA Recommendations

The participants went through a coronary calcium screening, through CT (Computer Tomography), at the time they enrolled. Calcium deposits in the coronary arteries have been shown to contribute to the overall rate of heart attacks. The research team evaluated the patients periodically, assessing whether or not the participants suffered from chest pains, heart attacks or cardiac arrests during the period of the study, whilst also evaluating the death rate of the patients due to coronary heart disease. Each participant was classified according to a score ranging between 0 and 4, where 0 meant the least healthy lifestyle and 4 mean the healthiest lifestyle. The factors taken into consideration for this classification were diet, BMI (Body-Mass Index), regular physical exercise and smoking status. Out of 129 participants, only 3 patients were classified as having the healthiest lifestyle.

According to professor Roger Blumenthal, who is a cardiologist and the senior author of the study, the most important lifestyle factor contributing to the high risk of coronary heart disease is smoking. According to professor Blumenthal, the smokers who adopted the other 3 lifestyle habits showed a lower survival rate over the 7.6 years, compared to the non-smokers that were obese and even sedentary. Blumenthal and the research team strongly suggest that people follow the recommendations made by the AHA (American Heart Association). These recommendations include quitting smoking, a BMI < 25, regular physical activity and a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish.

The research team affirms that their study does not only show the importance of these lifestyle habits against the risk of heart disease, but also shows that these lifestyle factors can reduce the overall mortality of patients in general. Ahmed concluded that even though there are certain risk factors that cannot be altered, such as family heritage, the controllable risk factors should be eliminated or reduced as much as possible.