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Pair of studies show lifestyle may have biggest impact on heart health


Searching for inspiration for your 2011 New Year's resolutions? You might consider making simple lifestyle changes that researchers say can lower heart disease risk, extend life expectancy and improve quality of life.

A pair of studies presented this week at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2010 in Chicago found that not smoking, low or no alcohol intake, weight control, physical activity and a healthy diet may have more impact than genetics on cardiovascular health.

In the first study, researchers tracked 2,336 African-American and white participants' diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking, weight, blood pressure and glucose levels for 20 years. They found the prevalence of a low-risk profile was 60 percent for participants who followed all five healthy lifestyle factors, 37 percent for four factors, 30 percent for three factors, 17 percent for two and 6 percent for one or zero.

And, in the second study, three generations of families from the Framingham Heart Study were examined to determine the heritability of cardiovascular health. The results showed only a small proportion of cardiovascular health is passed from parent to child; instead, it appears that the majority of cardiovascular health may arise from lifestyle choices.

Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, chair and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a release:

Health behaviors can trump a lot of your genetics. This research shows people have control over their heart health. The earlier they start making healthy choices, the more likely they are to maintain a low-risk profile for heart disease.

Photo by lululemon athletica

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