We all know that a healthy lifestyle is good for us and can reduce heart disease and heart attacks, but just how beneficial is it really? Well, a Swedish study conducted by Agneta Akesson, an associate professor with the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden has just answered this question and the results are staggering. Over an eleven year period 20,721 healthy Swedish men aged 45-79 years were asked about their lifestyle choices and health with a questionnaire.
Through the questionnaire researchers found a clear risk reduction in heart attacks for each healthy lifestyle factor. The five healthy lifestyle factors are listed below.
- Walking or cycling at least 40min per day and exercising for at least 1 hour per week
- Not smoking
- Drinking no more than 2-3 standard drinks per day
- A healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish
- A waist circumference less than 95cm
“This reduction in risk corresponded to 18% for the healthy diet, 11% for moderate alcohol consumption, 36% for no smoking, 3% for being physically active, and 12% for having a low abdominal circumference,” the authors wrote.
People who combined all five lifestyle factors had an 86% lower risk of having a heart attack compared to the high risk group that did not exhibit any of the healthy lifestyle factors.
Each year, around 55,000 Australians suffer a heart attack. This equates to one heart attack every 10 minutes. Based on the above study it may be possible to prevent about 4 out of 5 heart attacks through healthy lifestyle choices alone.
 Åkesson, A et al “Low-risk diet and lifestyle habits in the primary prevention of myocardial infarction in Men” J Am Coll Cardiol 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2014.06.1190.
 Australian heart foundation; http://www.heartattackfacts.org.au/heart-attack-facts/
Written by Dr Ed Skinner, General Practitioner, Aspendale Clinic