A new study, published in the journal Circulation, has revealed that adults who drop their unhealthy habits that are harmful to the their heart and embrace a healthy lifestyle can control and reverse the natural progression of coronary artery disease.
The research participants consisted of 5,000 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study; assessed at baseline (between the ages of 18 and 30) and 20 years later. The risk factors that were assessed included the following:
not being overweight/obese; being a non smoker, physical activity, low alcohol intake and a healthy diet.
“It’s not too late,” said Bonnie Spring lead investigator of the study and a professor of preventive medicine at 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.”
Healthy habits need to be maintained as otherwise they cause a measurable detrimental impact on coronary arteries.
“If you don’t keep up a healthy lifestyle, you’ll see the evidence in terms of your risk of heart disease,” Spring said.
For this paper, scientists examined healthy lifestyle behaviors and coronary artery calcification and thickening among the more than 5,000 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study who were assessed at baseline (when participants were ages 18 to 30) and 20 years later.
Researchers specified that the healthy behavior needs to be sustainable and recommend the following:
Keep a healthy body weight
Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity five times a week
No more than one alcoholic drink a day for women, no more than two for men
Eat a healthy diet, high in fiber, low in sodium with lots of fruit and vegetables
If healthy behavior is not sustained it causes additional health problems. Forty percent of the research participants acquired additional bad habits as they aged.
“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.”
B. Spring, A. C. Moller, L. A. Colangelo, J. Siddique, M. Roehrig, M. L. Daviglus, J. F. Polak, J. P. Reis, S. Sidney, K. Liu. Healthy Lifestyle Change and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Young Adults: Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. Circulation, 2014; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.005445