Healthy lifestyle may offer a second chance
Turns out there may in fact be a way to reverse heart disease… that is if you are willing to do the work.
A new Northwestern Medicine® study has found when adults in their 30s and 40s decide to drop unhealthy habits that are harmful to their heart and embrace healthy lifestyle changes, they can control and potentially even reverse the natural progression of coronary artery disease, scientists found. On the other side, researchers also found that if people drop healthy habits or pick up more bad habits as they age, there is measurable, detrimental impact on their coronary arteries.
Scientists examined healthy lifestyle behaviors and coronary artery calcification and thickening among the more than 5,000 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study who were assessed at baseline (when participants were ages 18 to 30) and 20 years later.
The healthy lifestyle factors assessed were:
- Not being overweight/obese
- Being a nonsmoker
- Being physically active and having low alcohol intake and a healthy diet.
By young adulthood, (at the beginning of the study) less than 10 percent of the CARDIA participants reported all five healthy lifestyle behaviors. At the 20-year mark, about 25 percent of the study participants had added at least one healthy lifestyle behavior.
Each increase in healthy lifestyle factors was associated with reduced odds of detectable coronary artery calcification and lower intima-media thickness — two major markers of cardiovascular disease that can predict future cardiovascular events.
Dr. Kunal Bodiwala, a cardiologist with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington-Normal, Ill. cautions that “heart medications including those that lower cholesterol do not replace a heart healthy lifestyle. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is important along with maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active,” says Bodiwala.
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