A large study that examined the heart health of about 70,000 women for 20 years shows that you can reduce your risk of heart problems by 90 percent in six simple steps.
The research entailed the analysis of the health and lifestyle habits of 69,247 nurses by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The researchers wanted to know why younger women were still dying at high rates from heart problems while most other groups of Americans had experienced improvement in survival rates.
“Although mortality rates from heart disease in the U.S. have been in steady decline for the last four decades, women aged 35-44 have not experienced the same reduction,” says researcher Andrea K. Chomistek, who is now at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington. “This disparity may be explained by unhealthy lifestyle choices. We wanted to find out what proportion of heart disease cases could be attributed to unhealthy habits.”
The study shows that six healthy habits could improve the heart health of younger women (and could help lower the heart disease risk in anyone):
- Don’t smoke.
- Keep your weight down.
- Exercise at least 2.5 hours a week.
- Don’t watch more than an hour of television per day.
- Don’t drink more than one alcoholic drink a day.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables while limiting processed foods.
“This is an important public health message,” says Chomistek. “Women should begin following these lifestyle practices early in life, especially if they are already taking medication for a risk factor such as hypertension or high cholesterol. It’s an easy way to prevent future heart trouble.”