The researchers looked at basically the same collection of healthy habits that King evaluated in his study, with some additions. "We looked at whether the diet was rich in not only fruits and vegetables but also whole grains, fish, chicken and other poultry and unsaturated fats -- like vegetable oils and nuts," Chiuve said. They also looked at whether participants smoked; got exercise for 3.5 hours a week at a moderate pace; consumed alcohol moderately; and kept a healthy body weight.
All were free of chronic heart disease in 1986, when the study began, and the men were ages 40 to 75.
Like King's team, Chiuve's team found that healthy habits make a big difference. Men who adopted healthy habits during the study period, from 1986 to 2002, had a lower risk of heart disease compared to men who didn't change their overall number of healthy habits.
"For each additional habit you added, the benefit increased," Chiuve said. Men who adopted one healthy habit had a 54 percent lower risk of heart disease, for instance, while those who embraced four had a 78 percent reduction in risk, she said.
"For the men who followed all five, they had an 87 percent lower risk of heart disease than the men who followed none," Chiuve said. The study was published in the journal Circulation.
While the study included only men, Chiuve believes the findings would also apply to women.
To learn more about adopting a healthier lifestyle, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
SOURCES: Dana E. King, M.D., professor of
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