If you're a man over the age of 40, you may want to put down that hamburger and pick up a salad instead. A new study shows that exercise and a good diet may be the most effective, and cheapest, method of preventing heart attacks in men.
Scientists have tried to design medicine to reduce the amount of people who die every year from heart attacks. However, the price ticket on having a heart attack is very high. In 2010, having a moderately severe heart attack cost about $38,000 a year in added medical costs for an individual person. A severe heart attack cost about $50,000 a year. This new study shows that simple lifestyle changes can be extremely effective at preventing heart attacks in men, reducing risk by as much as 80 percent.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), followed healthy Swedish men aged 45 to 79. The study followed them over eleven years, and asked them about their lifestyle habits such as alcohol consumption, smoking, diet and exercise. The researchers found that the more the men adopted heart-healthy lifestyle habits, the less likely they were to have a heart attack over the eleven years of the study. This was true even for men with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The authors of the study said that less than 2 percent of Americans follow all of the behaviors that were associated with an 80 percent reduced risk of heart attack. Only about 1 percent of the men in the study followed all of the behaviors. The researchers found six activities that, when combined, were associated with the lowest risk of heart attacks. These include maintaining a healthy weight, following a heart healthy diet high in whole foods such as nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and exercising moderately for at least 40 minutes a day.
"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. However, the best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life," Agneta Akesson said. Akesson is the lead author of the study.
Other studies have also shown that adopting healthier lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of heart disease. A study earlier this month found a slightly lower risk of heart attacks in people who ate fruit every day compared to people who never ate fruit.