A new research has found that adopting a healthier lifestyle in middle age lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston found that people between 45 to 64 years of age, who took up healthy lifestyle behaviours, could considerably lessen their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reduce their death rate.
Investigators saw a 35 percent drop in CVD frequency and a 40 percent decrease in mortality once this age bracket achieved 4 healthy behaviours: eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily, exercising at least 2.5 hours per week, maintaining their Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 30 kg/m, and not smoking.
"The potential public health benefit from adopting a healthier lifestyle in middle age is substantial. The current study demonstrated that adopting four modest healthy habits considerably lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in relatively short-term 4-year follow up period. The findings emphasize that making the necessary changes to adhere to a healthy lifestyle is extremely worthwhile, and that middle-age is not too late to act," lead author Dana E. King said.
Starting in 1987 to 1989, 15,792 men and women ages 45 to 64 years participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) in four communities across the United States. This was intended to examine the basis and development of various atherosclerotic diseases. Follow up visits every three years through the end of 1998 included an interval medical history, weight, height, diet questionnaire, updated smoking history and current participation in sports and leisure exercise.
There were three key findings from the study - first, the benefit of switching to a healthy lifestyle past age 45 became evident even in the 4-year, short-term follow up; second, the beneficial impact of the changes occurred despite the relatively modest changes in health habits; and third, the healthy lifestyle was advantageous when compared to all persons with three or fewer healthy habits, not just in comparison to people with none or one habit. People adopting only three healthy habits experienced lower mortality but not fewer CVD events over the same period.
The authors found that only 8.5 percent of middle-aged adults practice these four behaviours and only 8.4 percent newly adopt such a lifestyle past age 45. Further, men, African-Americans, and individuals with less than college education, lower income, or a history of hypertension or diabetes are less likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle past age 45, and are thus at greater risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease.
The study is published in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.