The new study shows that although regular exercise and a healthy diet have clear health benefits, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking.
“Of all the lifestyle factors, we found that smoking avoidance played the largest role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality,” study senior author Dr Roger Blumenthal, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in a news release.
“Smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviours still had lower survival rates after 7.6 years than did non-smokers who were sedentary and obese.”
The study followed more than 6 200 men and women between the ages of 44 to 84 for an average of eight years. Each participant underwent a coronary calcium screening when the study began, to check for early signs of calcium deposits, which could increase their risk for heart attack.
Over the course of the study, they were re-assessed to determine if they had suffered a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest or chest pain or had undergone angioplasty. The researchers also tracked deaths from heart disease or other causes.
Aside from the benefits of avoiding tobacco, the researchers found that exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and adopting a Mediterranean-style diet – one rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains – helped prevent the early buildup of calcium deposits in the arteries. These lifestyle changes also reduced the risk of death by 80 percent over the course of eight years.
“While there are risk factors that people can’t control, such as their family history and age, these lifestyle measures are things that people can change and consequently make a big difference in their health. That’s why we think this is so important,” said lead author Dr Haitham Ahmed, an internal medicine resident with Hopkins’ Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.
Source: HealthDay News