Genes, environment, and lifestyle habits influence our lifespan and health. Lifestyle habits are modifiable factors that can enable us to control our well-being and health.
A recent study intended to quantify the association between the four most important lifestyle factors and heart disease, and all-cause mortality.
The study included almost 6,300 U.S. adults from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The four investigated factors of a healthy lifestyle were smoking status – not smoking, diet – a Mediterranean-style diet, daily physical activity- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, and weight – a healthy body mass index. All of the patients had a lifestyle score, ranging from zero to four, with one point for every lifestyle factor. For heart disease evaluation, the patients underwent the coronary artery calcium screening at baseline with a follow-up scan three years later.
The researchers reported that a combination of regular exercise, healthy diet, not smoking, and healthy weight maintenance was associated with lower coronary calcium presence, slower calcium progression, and lower all-cause mortality over a seven-year follow-up period.
A healthy lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality
For the lifestyle score of 1, 2 and 3 the mortality risk was 21%, 39% and respective 51% lower than for the score 0. Individuals who adopted all four healthy behaviors had an incredible 81% lower risk of death than those with no healthy behaviors. The benefits were cumulative, but only 2% of the study participants met all four healthy-lifestyle criteria. Any new lifestyle change can bring an additional benefit. The coronary calcium scoring correlated with this decrease in death risk.
Smoking is the most dangerous habit
Of the behaviors investigated, smoking was the most devastating. In fact, the individuals who exercised, ate healthily, and had a normal weight, but smoked, presented higher cardiovascular and death risk than those who did nothing else right, but avoided cigarettes.
Healthy lifestyle habits are major modifiable factors that protect individuals from heart disease and contribute to a longer and better life.
- Ahmed HM, Blaha MJ, Nasir K, et al. Low-risk lifestyle, coronary calcium, cardiovascular events, and mortality: results from MESA. Am J Epidemiol 2013; DOI:10.1093/aje/kws453. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org.