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Healthy lifestyle may dramatically reduce heart attack risk: Here's how

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Health experts have long advocated for healthy lifestyle and a new study highlights why it pays to take heed of their advice.

Findings of the new research has found that middle-aged and older men have reduced risks for heart attack, a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., if they adopt all of five of the recommended health behaviors endorsed by health experts.

For the new study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on Sept. 22, Agneta Akesson, from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues looked at the data of over 20,700 men who were between 45 to 79 years old at the start of the study and who have not been earlier diagnosed of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Of the participants, 1,724 did not observe the five tenets of healthy behavior which include eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical exercise, not smoking, drinking in moderation and maintaining waist size and for this group, the researchers found that 166 ended up suffering from heart attack during the study period of 11 years.

Of the 212 men involved in the study who observed all of the five healthy practices, on the other hand, only three, or a mere 1 percent of the group, had heart attack leading researchers to conclude that adopting all of the five recommended practices that make up a healthy lifestyle could reduce risks of first heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction (MI) in men by 79 percent.

"Men having all 5 low-risk factors compared with those with 0 low-risk factors had a relative risk of 0.14," the researchers wrote. "This combination of healthy behaviors, present in 1% of the men, could prevent 79% (95% CI: 34% to 93%) of the MI events on the basis of the study population."

Akesson, who have also co-authored other studies that suggest healthy living yields similar effects on women, said that while it is not surprising that adopting a healthy lifestyle would result in reduced risks for heart attacks, what is surprising is how the risks is reduced because adherence to a healthy lifestyle.

"It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors can have great impact on cardiovascular health," Akesson said. "However, the best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life."

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