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Heart healthy choices now pay off later
Date:3/2/2012

CHICAGO --- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle from young adulthood into your 40s is strongly associated with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

"The problem is few adults can maintain ideal cardiovascular health factors as they age," said Kiang Liu, first author of the study. "Many middle-aged adults develop unhealthy diets, gain weight and aren't as physically active. Such lifestyles, of course, lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and elevated cardiovascular risk."

Liu is a professor and the associate chair for research in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"In this study, even people with a family history of heart problems were able to have a low cardiovascular disease risk profile if they started living a healthy lifestyle when they were young," Liu said. "This supports the notion that lifestyle may play a more prominent role than genetics."

Published Feb. 28 in the journal Circulation, this is the first study to show the association of a healthy lifestyle maintained throughout young adulthood and middle age with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age.

The majority of people who maintained five healthy lifestyle factors from young adulthood (including a lean body mass index (BMI), no excess alcohol intake, no smoking, a healthy diet and regular physical activity) were able to remain in this low-risk category in their middle-aged years.

In the first year of the study, when the participants' average age was 24 years old, nearly 44 percent had a low cardiovascular disease risk profile. Twenty years later, overall, only 24.5 percent fell into the category of a low cardiovascular disease risk profile.

Sixty percent of those who maintained all five healthy lifestyles reached middle age with the low cardiovascular risk profile, compared with fewer than 5
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Contact: Erin White
ewhite@northwestern.edu
847-491-4888
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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