Healthy Lifestyle Halves Heart Failure Risk

Men in Study Who Followed a Healthy Lifestyle Cut Their Risk of Heart Failure in Half

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC

July 21, 2009 -- Men who follow a healthy lifestyle may cut their risk of heart failure in half.

Researchers say it's the first time a large study has shown that modifiable lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, alcohol use, and smoking, can have a significant impact on the lifetime risk of congestive heart failure.

About 550,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and 20%-50% die from the disease.

The condition occurs when the heart is no longer strong enough to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Although medical treatments can slow the progression of the disease, there is no cure.

In an editorial that accompanies the study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Veronique L. Roger, MD, MPH, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says the findings underscore a powerfully simple message -- that a healthy lifestyle will help prevent heart disease and greatly enhance overall health.

Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Heart

The study followed 20,900 men who participated in the Physician's Health Study from 1982 to 2008 who were healthy at the start of the study. During the study period, 1,200 new cases of heart failure were diagnosed.

Researchers found the following six healthy lifestyle factors were each associated with a lower risk of heart failure:

  • Normal body weight
  • Never smoking
  • Regular exercise
  • Moderate alcohol use
  • Diet that includes eating breakfast cereals regularly
  • Diet rich in fruits and vegetables

The more healthy lifestyle factors the men had, the lower their risk of heart failure became.

"For example, the lifetime risk for heart failure was approximately 1 in 5 (21.2%) in men adhering to none of the desirable lifestyle factors, compared to 1 in 10 (10.1%) in those adhering to four or more healthy lifestyle factors," write Luc Djousse, MD, ScD, MPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and colleagues.

SOURCES: Djousse, L. The Journal of the American Medical Association, July 22/29, 2009; vol 302: pp 394-400; 437-439. News release, American Medical Association.

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