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Get Healthy: Your Middle-Aged Heart Will Thank You
Date:7/5/2008

It's never too late to start eating better, losing weight and exercising, studies find

SATURDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Your diet isn't all that healthy, and you haven't been to the gym since who knows when. You can't shed those pesky 20 extra pounds, but what's the use, you may ask -- after all, you're well into middle age.

To all that whining, Dr. Dana King would say: "It's not too late. If you make [healthy] changes now, it has a tremendous impact." Particularly on your heart. Even in middle age.

King, a professor of family medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, is one of several researchers who have proven in recent years that it's never too late to get healthy -- and that adopting better habits even in midlife translates to less disease and a longer life.

King led a recent study that evaluated the cardiovascular effects of adopting healthier habits in middle age -- what he calls the "turning back the clock study."

And surprise! It works. What's more, you don't have to be fanatical, but the more healthy habits you adopt, not surprisingly, the healthier you become.

King and his colleagues evaluated almost 16,000 men and women who were between the ages of 45 and 64 when the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study began. The researchers looked specifically at four heart-healthy habits: eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day; exercising at least 2.5 hours a week; keeping a healthy weight; and not smoking.

During four years of follow-up, the researchers found that those who adopted the four healthy habits were 40 percent less likely to die and 35 percent less likely to suffer heart problems than those who did not adopt the beneficial habits. The findings were published in The American Journal of Medicine.

Stephanie Chiuve, a research associate at Harvard School of Public Health, and her colleagues led a similar study that incl
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