Individuals aged between 30-40 years can successfully slash the risk of various heart diseases by eliminating unhealthy habits, a new study reveals.
Researchers at the Northwestern University found that the heart is more forgiving to those who take charge of their health. They explained that adults, by sticking to a healthy lifestyle, can control the progression of coronary artery diseases. And those adults, who adhere to unhealthy habits as they age, only end up harming their coronary arteries.
“It’s not too late,” said Bonnie Spring, lead investigator of the study and a professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “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. If you don’t keep up a healthy lifestyle, you’ll see the evidence in terms of your risk of heart disease.”
The researchers observed healthy lifestyle behavior as well as coronary artery calcification and thickening in nearly 5,000 subjects who were a part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. All these subjects were assessed at baseline when they were in the age group of 18-30 ears and then 20 years later.
Some of the healthy lifestyle factors evaluated included non-obese, non-smoker and physically active, low alcohol intake and healthy diet.
At the beginning of the study, less than 10 percent of the subjects had reported to following all the five healthy lifestyle behaviors. And 20 years later, nearly 25 percent of the subjects had included a minimum of one healthy lifestyle behavior.
Every increase in healthy lifestyle factor was linked to lower risk of detectable coronary artery calcification as well as reduced intima-media thickness, both of which are major signs of cardiovascular diseases that helps predict the future cardiovascular events.
“This finding is important because it helps to debunk two myths held by some health care professionals,” Spring said. “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.”
But, the researchers were surprised to see that nearly 40 percent of the subjects gave up the healthy lifestyle factors and opted for bad habits as they aged. This loss of healthy habits had a major negative impact on the coronary arteries.
Spring said, “Each decrease in healthy lifestyle factors led to greater odds of detectable coronary artery calcification and higher intima-media thickness. Adulthood isn’t a ‘safe period’ when one can abandon healthy habits without doing damage to the heart. A healthy lifestyle requires upkeep to be maintained.”
The finding was documented in the journal Circulation.