Adoption of a healthy lifestyle can reap rich dividends when it comes to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. A new research article says that there is a substantial body of evidence to support their claim.
This has emerged as the ESC Congress 2009 is drawing near.
Published in JAMA this week, the report suggests that men who exercised regularly, drank moderately, did not smoke, were not overweight and had a diet that included cereal, fruits and vegetables had a lower lifetime risk of heart failure.
The findings have major public health implications, with heart failure presently recognised as the leading cause of acute hospital admission and the most prevalent chronic cardiovascular condition.
An editorial in the same issue of JAMA says that mortality rates after the onset of heart failure remain high, ranging from 20-50 per cent, despite improvements in medical and surgical management.
It states that with the outlook so bleak for heart failure patients, the possibility that pursuing a healthy lifestyle may help reduce lifetime risk of heart failure is an important finding.
In the report, the US-based Physicians' Health Study revealed that the research was based on data from 20,900 men who were followed up for an average of 22.4 years.
The researchers found that normal body weight, never smoking, regular exercise, moderate alcohol intake, and consumption of breakfast cereal, fruits and vegetables were individually associated with a lower lifetime risk of heart failure than was "undesirable behaviour".
According to them, there was an inverse association between the number of healthy lifestyle factors and lifetime risk of heart failure.
"For example, the lifetime risk for heart failure was approximately 1 in 5 (21.2 per cent) in men adhering to none of the desirable lifestyle factors, compared to 1 in 10 (10.1 percent) in those adhering to 4 or more healthy lifestyle factors," they wrote.
Another study published in the journal suggests that adherence to modifiable lifestyle factors was also associated with a significantly lower incidence of hypertension in women.
The findings emerged from the Nurses' Health Study, one of the world's landmark studies in women's health epidemiology, which included more than 80,000 women.
Six modifiable lifestyle factors-normal BMI, daily vigorous exercise, diet, modest alcohol intake, non-narcotic analgesics and folic acid supplementation-were all found to be independently associated with lower blood pressure.
Women who had all six low-risk factors had an 80 per cent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
ESC spokesman Professor Joep Perk from Oskarshamn District Hospital in Sweden says that this study also has important public health implications, with women somewhat neglected in many of the prevention studies reported.
"This is an important piece of evidence where we don't always have information specifically related to women. The Nurses' Health Study is an observational study, but because of the numbers involved I'm sure the results will be valid in broader female populations," says Professor Perk.
The researcher also noted the 80 per cent reduced risk of hypertension in those few women adhering to all six lifestyle factors studied.
"So there's a consistent pattern here, suggesting that four out of five cases of hypertension or heart attack are amenable to lifestyle intervention. So, most of us can do something about prevention. It's a public health issue, and we need to put our heads together," explains Professor Perk.
Professor Perk also reaffirmed the three essential lifestyle messages of the ESC Guidelines on CVD Prevention: no smoking, physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, and maintenance of a normal BMI through exercise and appropriate calorie intake.
"These two studies yet again confirm the wisdom of this advice, and provide even more evidence to translate our knowledge into action," says Professor Perk.