Adopting a healthy lifestyle, one that includes not smoking, eating right, daily physical activity, and a healthy weight, is associated with a low incidence of calcium in the coronary arteries, as well as a slower progression of coronary artery calcium as measured over a three-year period, according to the results of a new study.
This study was published online June 4, 2013 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
This is the first study to look at biological progression every step of the way in a single longitudinal fashion.
The study included 6229 US adults aged 44 to 84 years old. All patients were given a lifestyle score, ranging from 0 to 4, based on whether or not they followed
1. a Mediterranean-style diet,
2. their exercise habits (achieving 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week),
3. body-mass index (BMI), and
4. smoking status.
One point was awarded for each healthy lifestyle behavior. The patients also underwent coronary artery calcium screening at baseline and a follow-up scan was performed 3.1 years later.
Overall, just 2% of the participants met all four healthy-lifestyle criteria!
The median annual progression in coronary artery calcium for individuals with a score 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 was 25 Agatston points/year, 20 points/year, 18 points/year, 18 points/year, and 14 points/year, respectively.
Lower Risk of Death
Clinically, a healthier lifestyle also translated into a significant reduction in all-cause mortality and a trend toward lower coronary heart disease risk over a seven-year follow-up period.
Individuals who adopted all four healthy behaviors had an approximate 80% lower risk of death than those with no healthy behaviors.
“The benefits were cumulative, meaning the more healthy behaviors, the better,” commented Ahmed, one of the investigators. “So if you maintained a normal weight and ate healthy but weren’t exercising, this shows you can still have even more benefit from adding exercise to your life.”
Of the behaviors investigated, however, smoking was the most devastating. “In fact, if you exercised, ate healthily, and maintained normal weight, but smoked, you still were worse off than people who did nothing else right but stayed away from cigarettes. This really highlighted how important it is to stay away from smoking. It is probably singlehandedly the best thing you can do for your cardiovascular and overall health.”
You can’t pick your family history or change your age, but you can start exercising today, and you can start changing your diet today. All these interventions are things that cost us very little to nothing and are 100% in our hands. With these we have the ability to control our own wellness and health.