Heart disease risk ‘can be undone’

1 July 2014

Adults can turn back the clock and undo some of the damage done to their hearts by picking up healthy diet and lifestyle habits, suggests new research from Northwestern University, Illinois.

By adopting such changes, people can control, and potentially reverse, the natural progression of coronary artery disease.

Bonnie Spring, lead investigator, commented: “It’s not too late. You’re not doomed if you’ve hit young adulthood and acquired some bad habits. You can still make a change and it will have a benefit for your heart.”

Conversely, the research team discovered that if adults drop healthy habits, or replace them with bad practices, there can be a measurable, pernicious effect on coronary arteries.

To conduct the study, scientists examined the lifestyle behaviors and coronary artery risk factors in more than 5,000 participants aged 18 to 30. They were then followed up 20 years later.

The healthy lifestyle factors were not being overweight or obese, not smoking, being physically active, a low alcohol intake and a balanced diet.  

At the beginning of the study, less than ten per cent reported following all five positive behaviors. Twenty years later, 25 per cent of the participants had adopted as least one of the changes. 

Each increase in healthy behaviours resulted in a reduced risk of detectable coronary artery calcification and lower intima-media thickness - markers of heart disease.

Posted by Philip Briggs

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