Heart health is a concern for most of us, but it becomes more important as we age or if there is a family history of cardiovascular disease. There has been an ongoing debate about whether genetics or lifestyle have more of an impact on our heart health. Do we throw up our hands and believe our destiny is determined, or do we, in fact, have control over preventing heart disease through our behaviors and lifestyle choices?
Two large studies from Northwestern Medicine confirm a healthy lifestyle has the biggest impact on cardiovascular health.
One study identified five behaviors we can practice to maintain cardiovascular health from young adulthood through middle age. In adopting them, your cardiovascular disease risk decreases and can lead to improved overall health through middle and older age.
The five important factors in preventing cardiac diseases,
Weight control, Physical activity, Not smoking, Low or no alcohol use and Healthy diet.
Poor choices catch up and years of living an unhealthy lifestyle can have negative consequences. Weight gain from years of poor diet, excessive drinking and not getting enough sleep accumulate over time.
In the study, participants ages 18-30 were followed for 20 years. More than half the adults who followed the five healthy habits maintained a low risk profile for heart disease by the time they were in their middle-aged years. Over time, this means a longer, better quality of life in general, along with lower medical costs often associated with chronic illness.
As expected, the more positive behaviors you follow, the lower the risk factors for heart disease later in life. Results were similar across the board despite gender or race. The more of the five health habits you practice, the lower your risk of heart disease.
Role You Play in Preventing Cardiac Diseases
Habits are more impactful than heredity according to this study, with only a small portion of cardiovascular health passed from parent to child.
Red and processed meats, Saturated fats, Sodium, Sugary drinks.
While genetics may play a role, the way in which you live your life is ultimately up to you and has a bigger impact on your overall well-being, especially your heart health. You can decrease chance of developing cardiovascular disease by exercising at least 3 hours each week, eat a well-balanced diet, and avoid alcohol and tobacco, which should aid in weight control and ensure your Body Mass Index (BMI) is within a normal range. An estimated 45 percent of deaths from heart disease, stroke and diabetes were attributed to diet, which we can control.