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Published On: Wed, Jul 2nd, 2014

Worried about your unhealthy lifestyle?

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Adults can reverse the negative effects of heart disease by dropping unhealthy habits in their 30s and 40s, scientists claim.

A new study suggests that eating a healthier diet and doing more exercise can control and potentially even reverse the natural progression of coronary artery disease.

But the researchers warned that picking up extra bad habits as you get older will have a detrimental impact on your arteries.

‘It’s not too late,’ said Bonnie Spring, lead investigator of the study and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

‘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.’

However, according to the study, which was published in the journal Circulation, if people drop healthy habits or pick up more bad habits as they age, there is measurable, detrimental impact on their coronary arteries.

‘If you don’t keep up a healthy lifestyle, you’ll see the evidence in terms of your risk of heart disease,’ Professor Spring said.

Scientists based their research on 5,000 participants of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which examined people’s lifestyle behaviours as well as coronary artery calcification and thickening between the ages of 18 and 30 – and 20 years later.

The healthy lifestyle factors assessed were: not being overweight or obese, being a non-smoker, being physically active and eating healthily without drinking much alcohol.

At the beginning of the study when the participants were young adults, less than 10 per cent of people reported all five healthy lifestyle behaviours.

At the 20-year mark, around one quarter of the participants had added at least one healthy lifestyle behaviour.

Increasing healthy lifestyle factors were linked with reduced odds of detectable coronary artery calcification and lower intima-media thickness, which are two major markers of cardiovascular disease that can predict future cardiovascular events.

‘This finding is important because it helps to debunk two myths held by some health care professionals,’ said Professor Spring.

‘The first is that it’s nearly impossible to change patients’ behaviours. Yet, we found that 25 per cent of adults made healthy lifestyle changes on their own.

‘The second myth is that the damage has already been done – adulthood is too late for healthy lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease.

‘Clearly, that’s incorrect.

‘Adulthood is not too late for healthy behaviour changes to help the heart.’

While some participants in the study became healthier in their lifestyle choices, 40 per cent of the sample dropped healthy habits and acquired more bad habits as they aged.

‘That loss of healthy habits had a measurable negative impact on their coronary arteries,’ Professor Spring said.

‘Each decrease in healthy lifestyle factors led to greater odds of detectable coronary artery calcification and higher intima-media thickness.

‘Adulthood isn’t a “safe period” when one can abandon healthy habits without doing damage to the heart.

‘A healthy lifestyle requires upkeep to be maintained.’

Professor Spring said the healthy changes people in the study made are attainable and sustainable.

She thinks that people can maintain a good lifestyle by not smoking, keeping a healthy body weight, doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week and eating a healthy diet that is high in fibre and low in salt, with lots of fruit and vegetables.

She said that women should limit themselves to one alcoholic drink a day and men, a maximum of two drinks.

Source: Dailymail.co.uk

 

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