Information from the John Hopkins Hospital may be prompting some individuals to re-evaluate lifestyle factors that could put them at greater risk of heart disease.
According to a massive multi-centre study led by researchers from John Hopkins, there are four lifestyle factors that play a major role in determining heart health: physical activity, diet, weight management, and whether or not an individual smokes regularly(1).
Reducing Mortality Rates
By adopting lifestyle changes in these four areas – by getting enough exercise, eating a more heart-friendly diet, managing your weight and quitting smoking – individuals may be able to protect themselves against coronary heart disease. Evidence suggests that this can reduce their risk of early death by up to 80 percent.
Lifestyle Factors Vary By Demographics
While it can be difficult to say exactly what drives individuals to make unhealthy lifestyle choices, there is evidence that cultural and environmental factors can play a significant role. For example, Cuban Americans have been shown to be at significantly elevated risk for heart disease compared to other populations(2).
Given this information, it’s important for public health initiatives designed to promote heart health to reach out to cultural minority communities whose lifestyles may differ from many more “mainstream” Americans.
Making healthier food, such as fresh fish, veggies, and fruits, available in so-called “food deserts” – areas where there is little access to fresh food for miles – can go a long way in promoting heart health among minority communities, some advocates say(3).
Smoking And Drinking Pose Major Risks
Among the highest of high-risk behaviours individuals can engage in is excessive smoking and drinking. The John Hopkins study pinpoints smoking as one of the most destructive factors when it comes to cardiovascular health.
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In fact, smokers who adopted healthier practices in other areas still had lower survival rates after 8 years than nonsmokers who continued with poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.
Another study points to alcohol as a significant risk factor when it comes to heart disease(4), especially when it comes to African-American men, for whom frequent drinking over an extended period of time could put them at risk of atherosclerosis.
Taking Control Of What You Can
Understanding which lifestyle factors can lead to heart disease is important, because there are so many contributing factors that are ultimately out of our control.
Family history, age, and environment are all elements at play in the development of cardiovascular disease. However, there are things that we can do to make up for the things outside of our control – and it starts with developing healthy lifestyle habits.