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Health and Medicine for Seniors

Heart Attacks in Older Men May Drop 80% with Modest Diet, Lifestyle Changes

Study of over 20,000 men age 45 to 79 published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology

senior couple walking for exerciseSept. 28, 2014 – If you are a male senior citizens this study should get your attention. It concludes that 80 percent - four out of five - of heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) in men may be preventable with a relatively easy combination low-risk behavior in diet and lifestyle.

The new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology studied a population-based group of 20,721 men ages 45 to 79 years old.

Agneta Akesson, PhD, associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues examined the benefit of combined diet and lifestyle practices on the incidence of MI (myocardial infarction) in men

These men had no history of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol levels.


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The study considered five low-risk behavior factors:
….a healthy diet (top quintile of Recommended Food Score; see more below news report),
….moderate alcohol consumption (10 to 30 grams per day),
….no smoking,
….being physically active (walking/bicycling 40 min per day and exercising one hour per week), and
….having no abdominal adiposity (waist circumference <95 cm), the authors conducted follow-ups across an 11 year period.

In the study over 11 years they recorded 1,361 heart attacks, and concluded that that low-risk dietary choice together with just moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a relative risk of 0.65 compared with men having zero of the five low-risk factors.

But, men who maintained all five low-risk factors compared with those with zero low-risk factors had a relative risk of 0.14 (95 percent). Based on the study population, men that achieve all five low-risk factors could prevent 79 percent (95 percent CI: 34 percent to 93 percent) of the potential MI events.

The incidence of myocardial infarction decreased with the number of positive behaviors in both healthy men and in those with hypertension and high cholesterol.

“It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks,” said Akesson.

“What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.

“It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors can have great impact on cardiovascular health,” she adds.

“However, the best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life.”

In a commenting editorial Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, FACC, writes, “These findings highlight the primacy of healthy lifestyle. For both individual patients and populations, lifestyle goals should not be formulated solely for control of weight or blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.

“Although lifestyle has major benefits on these physiological factors, a healthier diet, greater activity and nonsmoking influence numerous other pathways of risk and produce substantial additional benefits for cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular health.”

About Recommended Food Score

The 51-point Recommended Food Score (RFS) measures dietary diversity in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It awards points for weekly intake of 51 foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats and poultry). (More on RFS)


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