Six healthy lifestyle practices can help prevent heart attacks in the majority of young women, according to a recent study.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, followed nearly 70,000 women for two decades and tracked their diets and other health habits. The findings – unhealthy habits can lead to heart disease.
The average age of the women in the study was 37 years old. The average age of heart disease diagnosis was 50, and the average age for diagnosis with a risk factor for heart disease was 46 years old.
“There are several past studies like this involving the population in general, but most have an underrepresentation of women,” says Dr. Abbas Rampurwala, cardiologist at Advocate Heart Institute at Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “This study is very important because women usually work and have other responsibilities and tend to put their own heart health on the back burner.”
After monitoring the women, researchers found that they all portrayed the same lifestyle habits. The six healthy lifestyles included:
- Not smoking
- Maintaining normal body mass index
- Engaging in physical activity for at least two and a half hours per week
- Watching seven or fewer hours of television a week
- No more than one alcoholic beverage per day (on average)
- Following a healthy diet
Overall, women who follow all six practices have a 92 percent lower risk of heart attacks and a 66 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
For those diagnosed with risk factors, following at least four of the practices leads to a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease later in life.
Also, adhering to some of the practices independently, such as not smoking, also shows a lower risk for heart disease.
Dr. Maciej Malinski, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute and at Sherman Hospital says, “As women get older, their risks start to equalize with the male population.”
Dr. Malinksi also explains that risk factors can include a family history of heart disease, physical inactivity, poor eating habits, smoking and excess alcohol consumption.
“Prevention is key,” says Dr. Malinski. “Whether a man or a woman, these healthy lifestyle practices can only decrease your chances for heart disease later in life.”
Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take Advocate Heart Institute’s heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see an Advocate cardiologist within 24 hours.