Simple lifestyle changes will prevent heart disease


Jack Sachs

❝ Billions of dollars are spent every year on medications that reduce the risk of heart disease — the No. 1 killer in the United States…But some people feel powerless to prevent it: Many of the risk factors seem baked into the cake at birth. Genetic factors can have a huge impact on people’s chances of dying of heart disease, and it has long been thought that those factors are almost always outside of one’s control.

Recent research contradicts this, though, and that should give us all renewed hope…

❝ Researchers gathered data from four large prospective cohort studies that followed thousands of people for years, looking at the relationships between various risk factors and heart disease. The first began enrolling patients in 1987 and the last in 2008. Even though specific genes of interest weren’t known when these studies began, data were available that allowed scientists to evaluate genetic risk decades later. Using about 50 different variations — single-nucleotide polymorphisms (otherwise known as SNPs) — researchers created a risk score.

They also looked at how lifestyle factors were associated with outcomes. These included not smoking cigarettes, not being obese (having a B.M.I. less than 30), performing physical activity at least once a week and having a healthful diet pattern.

❝ That last criterion was defined as doing at least half of the following recommendations: eating more fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, fish and dairy products and eating less refined grains, processed meats, unprocessed red meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fats and sodium. Every one of the four lifestyle factors was associated with a decreased risk of coronary events…

❝ That’s the first bit of good news. Doing any one of these things makes a difference.

But the effect is cumulative. The researchers divided people into three groups based on these factors. “Favorable” required at least three of the four factors, “intermediate” required two of them, and “unfavorable” required one or none. Across all studies, those with an unfavorable lifestyle had a risk that was 71 percent to 121 percent higher than those with a favorable lifestyle.

More impressive was the reduction in coronary events — heart attacks, bypass procedures and death from cardiovascular causes — at every level of risk. Those with a favorable lifestyle, compared with those with an unfavorable lifestyle, had a 45 percent reduction in coronary events among those at low genetic risk, a 47 percent reduction among those with intermediate genetic risk, and a 46 percent reduction among those at high genetic risk.

RTFA, folks. It’s filled with information. Yes, it would be great if most of you already know most of this. Can’t wait until I get hundreds of comments telling me you do! Until then, I will continue to post useful advice on behaving like you want to live a long, long time.

Oh, yeah, like the American Heart Association, I recommend more exercise than the researchers accept as minimum.

Just like my politics. I’d like all of us folks, who work for a living, physically, intellectually, professionals or pieceworkers – to have as enjoyable life as our society and economy is really capable of. Not what we’re allowed by political pricks whose only role in life seems to be as guard dogs for the rich and powerful.

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