Adopting multiple healthy habits may significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease in men

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A prospective study of 42,847 middle-aged and older U.S. men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study has found that a healthy lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), even among men taking antihypertensive or lipid-lowering medications.

The research, which is the first to look at the role of a healthy lifestyle and CHD in men in this age group, is published in the July 3, 2006, online edition of Circulation.

The research team, led by Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Stephanie Chiuve, research fellow in nutrition at HSPH, did a 16-year follow-up of men aged 40-75 in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a men's health study that began in 1986. The researchers defined healthy lifestyle factors as not smoking, daily exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, a healthy body weight and a healthy diet (based upon the Alternate Healthy Eating Index developed by HSPH, which targets food and nutrients associated with lower risk of chronic disease). The study, which documented 2,183 coronary events, found that men with all five healthy lifestyle factors had a lower risk of CHD compared to men with none of those factors. It also found that 62 percent of coronary events may have been prevented if all men in the study population adhered to all five healthy lifestyle factors; for those men taking medications, 57 percent could have been prevented. Men who adopted two or more low-risk factors during the study period (1986-2002) had a 27 percent lower risk of CHD. Overall, for each healthy lifestyle factor, the authors found an inverse association with CHD risk.

Chiuve says the study shows that middle-aged and older men who adopt a healthy lifestyle, including men taking antihypertensive or lipid-lowering medications, have a lower risk of CHD. "It's never too late to make changes to become healthier," she said.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association. Chiuve was supported in part by an institutional training grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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