In 1986, researchers from the Harvard School of Public health began following over 42,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The men had no cardiovascular disease at the time they were enrolled in the study. The researchers then tabulated any cardiovascular events (heart attacks or death) that occurred in this population of men. They concluded that, had all men adopted five healthy lifestyle habits, over 60% of the cardiovascular events that occurred in this population would have been prevented.
The five life-saving healthy habits were:
- not smoking
- daily exercise
- prudent eating
- consuming moderate amounts of alcohol
- maintaining a healthy weight
Only 4% of the men in this study followed all five habits, even though they were all highly educated professional health care workers. The men who followed all five habits experienced a full 87% reduced risk for cardiovascular disease than men who followed none of the healthy habits. And men who adopted two or more of the five healthy habits experienced a 27% reduction in coronary events.
Yet another study demonstrates that getting sufficient exercise and keeping your weight down can have a remarkable effect on your health and longevity. The choice is yours.
Note to the temperance crowd: I, too, am sorry that alcohol again raises its ugly head as a coronary artery disease preventative. This fact requires me once more to put up this disclaimer: Alcohol is an addictive substance that has a myriad of dangerous side effects, including heart disease, hypertension, liver, kidney, and brain disease, and that catalyzes untold numbers of tragedies on our highways. Far more lives would be saved if alcohol did not exist than would be saved if doctors told their patients to consume moderate amounts (1 or 2 servings a day) to help prevent heart disease. Indeed, because many individuals cannot stick to 1 or 2 servings a day, and because 3 or more servings is associated with increased (instead of decreased) mortality, doctors generally do not so instruct their patients. Finally, I did not tell the Harvard researchers to include alcohol consumption in their analysis, fervently wish they had not, and am merely reporting the results of their having done so, in accordance with my solemn responsibility to my readers. So there's no need for angry e-mails. Cheers.
Chiuve SE, McCullough ML, Sacks FM, et al. Healthy lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men. Benefits among users and nonusers of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive medications. Circulation 2006; 114:160-167.