lifestyle can make a big difference -- even for people new to healthy
That's the word from a new study by Dana King, MD, and colleagues at the
Medical University of South Carolina.
"The findings emphasize that making the necessary changes to adhere to a
healthy lifestyle is extremely worthwhile, and that middle-age is not too late
to act," write King and colleagues.
They reviewed data from a
long-term health study of 15,700 U.S. adults. Participants were aged 45-64 in
the late 1980s, when the study started. They completed surveys about their
King's team counted the number of adults who had a healthy lifestyle, based
on the following four factors:
- Eat at least five fruits and vegetables daily
- Walk or get other exercise for at least 2.5 hours weekly
- Keep BMI (body mass index) out of the obese range
- Don't smoke
Few participants -- 8.5% -- met all four of those standards at the study's
During the study, participants
checked in with the researchers every three years, repeating the healthy
lifestyle survey and noting any new health problems.
A total of 970 participants
stepped up their health habits to meet the healthy living standard within six
years of enrolling in the study.B The researchers hadn't asked them to do
so; the study was purely observational.
Eating more fruits and vegetables was the most common lifestyle change,
followed by getting more exercise, quitting smoking, and losing extra
Healthy Lifestyle vs. Heart Disease
The study highlights two key benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle --
cutting heart disease and premature death.
During the study, few participants
-- fewer than 5% -- died or had cardiovascular disease
"events"B such as heart attacks.
People who adopted all fo ur
healthy living habits were 40% less likely to die and 35% less likely to
develop heart disease than those who didn't make those changes.
Those benefits began promptly -- within four years of starting a healthy
lifestyle -- King's team notes.
The results held when the researchers considered factors including age,
race, sex, social or economic status, and history of high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.
In short, healthy living helped participants across the board.
The study appears in The American Journal of Medicine's July
- Which of these healthy
behaviors have you adopted? Discuss it on WebMD's Active Aging message
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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