Many people believe that genetics is the best predictor for whether or not you are going to have a heart attack and that if you parents, siblings or someone else closely related to you has heart disease that you are more likely to get it, too. However, while there is certainly a genetic component, recent research out of Sweden revealed that five specific lifestyle factors are the best way to prevent having a first heart attack. These five factors are discussed below.
The Swedish study found that smoking cessation, all by itself, could lower the risk for a first heart attack by a whopping 36% and that smoking is one of the lifestyle factors which most threatens someone’s longevity on any number of fronts. Similar findings were made by a UK study exclusively on women and smoking cessation whose results were published several years back. The good news is that once you have quit and have not smoked for over a year, your chances of a heart attack appear to be as good as someone who has never smoked at all!
People who begin to eat a healthy, balanced diet can lower their risk of a first heart attack by around 20%, this study found. The study defined a “healthy” diet as one which encompassed 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, 4 servings of whole grains daily, 1 or more reduced-fat dairy servings daily and 2 servings weekly of healthy fish like salmon.
People who were able to lose weight specifically from their abdominal region lowered their risk of a heart attack by around 12%, and many doctors now believe that waist circumference is a much better predictor of cardiac health than actual weight. Those in the Swedish study who had waistlines measuring below 38 inches enjoyed this reduced risk of heart attack.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Those who practiced moderate alcohol consumption (defined as 1-2 drinks a day) cut their risk of a first heart attack by 11%, in line with evidence which consistently shows that alcohol, as long as it is not excessive, supports cardiac health. However, if alcohol use is heavy, this can actually increase the chances of a cardiac event.
In this study, participants who walked or cycled for at least 40 minutes a day decreased their chances of a first heart attack by about 3%. This low number surprised some of the researchers in this study, since physical activity is associated with a stronger cardiovascular system and can help improve circulation and reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In short, the Swedish study confirmed that those who want to prevent that first heart attack can greatly reduce their risk for it even if there is a genetic component in their medical background. It can be done through the lifestyle changes discussed here, including smoking cessation, a balanced diet, the loss of abdominal fat, moderate alcohol consumption and physical activity.
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