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Study: Healthy Living Beats Drugs for Heart Attack Prevention

Despite the availability of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive drugs, lifestyle changes could prevent 79% of myocardial infarction (MI) in men, a Swedish study found. The drugs can be effective but "adherence to a healthy lifestyle still has an impressive impact" and avoids any pharmalogical side effects, according Agneta Akesson, PHD, of the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden. Writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology[link TK], Akesson concludes that "A healthy diet together with low-risk lifestyle practices and absence of abdominal adiposity may prevent the vast majority of MI events in men."

Despite the availability of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive drugs, lifestyle changes could prevent 79% of myocardial infarction (MI) in men, a Swedish study found.

The drugs can be effective but “adherence to a healthy lifestyle still has an impressive impact” and avoids any pharmalogical side effects, according Agneta Akesson, PHD, of the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden. Writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Akesson concludes that “A healthy diet together with low-risk lifestyle practices and absence of abdominal adiposity may prevent the vast majority of MI events in men.”

All these men have to do is exercise, quit smoking, drink moderately, lose weight, and eat better.

The study began in 1997 when the researchers had 20,071 healthy Swedish men ages 45 to 79 fill out questionnaires on their diet and lifestyle. The questionnaires were sent to all Swedish men in two central counties and about half of them filled them out.

Healthy behavior was defined as eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, drinking less than 30 grams of alcohol a day, walking or bicycling 40 minutes daily, and having a waist no larger than 37 inches. Non-smoking was also a criterion.

Only 1% of the men met those criteria.

After 11 years, the team found that 1,361 of the men had had heart attacks. The researchers determined that 77-82% of those attacks would have been prevented had the men lost weight, ate a healthier diet, drank less alcohol, and exercised regularly.Those whose healthy behavior was limited to diet and alcohol consumption had a 35% risk reduction in MI, while those who combined that with not smoking, getting exercise, and watching their waistlines had an 86% lower risk.

The authors conceded that their study had two problems: only 1% of subjects were following all five recommended healthy-living strategies, and potential errors due to self-reporting.