The secret to a long life? 80% of men could avoid a heart attack with just five simple lifestyle changes
- Not smoking, taking exercise and drinking in moderation key to reducing risk
- Healthy diet and having a waist measuring below 37 inches also crucial
- Giving up each individual bad habit lowers the risk of heart attacks
- Reduced risk was observed even in men who took medication
Most heart attacks in men could be avoided by making five simple lifestyle changes, researchers claim.
Losing the belly, cutting down on alcohol, walking for 40 minutes a day, eating more fruit and veg and quitting smoking would drastically lower their risk.
A study of 20,271 men found that four out of five heart attacks could have been prevented by taking these five basic steps.
Even making one change reduced their risk by up to a third – and if they made all five changes, their risk fell by 86 per cent.
Stopping smoking cut the risk by 36 per cent and a healthy diet did so by 25 per cent.
Drinking less than three units – or one-and-a-half pints – a day led to an 8 per cent fall.
Having a waist measurement of less than 38in reduced the risk by 13 per cent, while walking or biking for at least 40 minutes a day cut it by 7 per cent. The more changes the men made, the greater the reduction in risk.
For example, if they ate a healthy diet and drank less, their risk went down by 35 per cent.
If they exercised, followed a healthy diet and reduced their drinking, it fell by 64 per cent, according to the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The researchers, from Sweden, calculated that 80 per cent of heart attacks in men could be avoided through these changes.
Dr Agneta Akesson, an associate professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, said: ‘It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks. What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped.’
She added: ‘It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviours are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviours can have great impact on cardiovascular health. The best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life.’
The researchers tracked the men – all aged 45 to 79 – for 11 years. At the beginning of the study, they answered a series of questions about their lifestyle.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease, which is a largely preventable condition. That’s why it’s important we’re all aware of the health risks our lifestyles can lead to.
WHAT MEN SHOULD BE AIMING FOR
Men with the optimum lifestyle:
Walked or cycled for at least 40 minutes per day
Exercised at least one hour per week
Had a waist circumference below 37 inches
Drank moderate amounts of alcohol
Ate a diet packed with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fis
‘This study provides even more evidence that stopping smoking, increasing your physical activity, keeping your weight down and eating a balanced diet is the way to a healthy heart. If you’re over 40, make sure to visit your GP for a free heart health check – but do get checked out sooner if you are having symptoms.’
Around 62,000 men have a heart attack each year in England, compared to 38,000 women.
The striking gender gap may be partly the result of genetics as well as differences in lifestyle.
Researchers also think that many heart attacks in women are going undiagnosed because they often do not experience typical symptoms, such as chest pain.