By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Following a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference for young women in preventing heart disease – the No. 1 killer of women. That’s the conclusion of a 2015 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in which researchers at Indiana and Harvard Universities analyzed data from lifestyle questionnaires completed by nearly 90,000 women over a 20-year period from 1991 to 2011. The women were 27 to 44 years of age at the beginning.
The findings indicated that maintenance of a healthy lifestyle among young women may “substantially lower” their incidence of cardiovascular disease over time.
A healthy lifestyle was described as not smoking, maintaining normal body weight, physical activity more than 2.5 hours a week, less than 7 hours of television viewing a week, a healthy diet, and not exceeding a drink a day of alcohol (12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor).
My Viewpoint: This is an important study. Overall death rates from coronary heart disease have fallen in recent decades, but not among younger women. As I have reported before, younger women may be more vulnerable than men due to a greater incidence of poorer health status related to accompanying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, depression, and increasing rates of smoking and obesity.
What This Means to You: The potential for reduction in heart disease mortality among young women as a result of lifestyle changes hasn’t really been documented by researchers, even though it’s logical to believe that such changes have an impact. Just stopping smoking and controlling blood pressure will have a huge impact. In my own practice, I have seen lifestyle changes dramatically improve the heart health of patients, including younger women. A healthy lifestyle is powerful medicine.
Recommendation: Prevention is always easier than a cure. And it’s never too late, or, in this case, too early, to start on a healthy lifestyle program. You must reduce the toxic burden of risk factors in your life. One big factor not to forget is taking care of the stress in your life, a sorely overlooked cause of not only cardiovascular problems, but other health problems as well. Stress is a killer. You need to defuse it before it harms you.
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