Men: Slash Heart Attack Risk by 86 Percent

Four out of five heart attacks can be prevented by lifestyle changes

What if we told you there was a way to reduce your chances of having a heart attack by a staggering 86 percent? A Swedish study that followed more than 20,000 men for 11 years says this is possible, with five lifestyle changes: regular exercise, a diet rich in fruits and veggies, not smoking, limited amounts of alcohol and watching your waistline.

“It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks,” said Agneta Akesson, the study’s lead author and an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, in a release. “What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.”

Researchers assessed the study participants’ lifestyle habits and found a dramatic reduction in heart attack risk for each way the participants lived healthily: sticking to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and fish; walking or bicycling for more than 40 minutes a day, plus working out for more than an hour a week; drinking an ounce or less of alcohol per day; not smoking; and keeping the circumference of their waist less than 37 inches.

The trouble is only about 1 percent of the men in the study fit into the complete healthy-living category. That 1 percent was 86 percent less likely to have heart attacks than those who were overweight, live sedentary lifestyles, ate poorly, and smoked and drank too much. And, say the study authors, less than 2 percent of the American population follow these five lifestyle tenets.

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