Heart Attack Risk can be Reversed with the Help of Healthier Lifestyle Choices: Study

First Posted: Jul 01, 2014 02:03 PM EDT

Could heart attack risk actually be reversible?

A recent study conducted by researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that many individuals who switch to a healthy routine, even in their 30s and 40s, can reduce their risk for certain cardiovascular issues. The findings are published in the journal Circulation.

"It's not too late," said Bonnie Spring, lead study author and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a press release. "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."

For the study, researchers examined the lifestyle behavior and coronary calcification and thickening of 5,000 participants who were part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Participants were assessed between 18 to 30 years of age and again 20 years later.

Researchers analyzed five specific healthy behaviors, including if a patient was overweight or obese, a nonsmoker, physically active, indulged in little to no alcohol and consumed a healthy diet.

At the beginning of the study, only about 10 percent of the participants had all five healthy habits. However, by the end of the study, about 25 percent of them had added at least one of the five to their daily routine. For every added health routine from the five choices picked up by the patients, this lead to a potential reduction in coronary artery calcification and intima-media thickness.

"This finding is important because it helps to debunk two myths held by some health care professionals," Spring added. "The first is that it's nearly impossible to change patients' behaviors. Yet, we found that 25 percent 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 behavior changes to help the heart."

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true of letting go of healthy habits or picking up new ones. Study results showed that about 40 percent of the participants who dropped healthy lifestyle choices had acquired unhealthier ones as they aged.

To keep your heart healthy, check out some tips via the American Heart Association.

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