Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women in the United States today. But research shows that heart disease is indeed preventable. What measures can be taken to prevent a heart attack?

CBS news reports on how heart attacks can be prevented.

One man made healthy changes to his lifestyle to decrease his risk of getting a heart attack after his doctor told him he was a high risk person. Before the changes, he even faced two heart attacks. But his results show that his new, prudent actions saved his life; he has been heart attack free since the changes.

Mr. Tomlinson has suffered two heart attacks in the last fifteen years, despite the fact that he is only sixty seven years old. Obviously, he is worried about his health. To stave off high cholesterol and diabetes he changed his whole life. What did he do?

The first thing he did was start walking every day for regular exercise. CBS reports,

“According to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 4 out of 5 heart attacks in men are actually preventable when a person makes changes to lifestyle that include maintaining a healthy weight and diet, adopting a regular exercise program, avoiding cigarettes and keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum.”

How long was spent on the study? Researchers and experts put data together for around ten years. The study only looked at men aged forty-five to seventy-nine.

What does this mean for Americans? “The researchers estimate fewer than 2 percent of Americans follow lifestyles considered ideal for cardiovascular health. Approximately 720,000 suffer heart attacks each year,” according to CBS.

What did Mr. Tomlinson say about his new lifestyle? He admitted that it was a difficult adjustment at first but more than the adjustment he was worried about losing his life. Tomlinson further said that his main goal was just to stay alive and he was willing to make any necessary changes he had to in order to reach this goal.

Dr. Brar who is a cardiologist and director of the cardiology program at his hospital commented on the study, telling CBS, “We know that in patients who have already developed blockages in the artery and have had to have open heart surgery or stenting procedures to fix those blockages, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can significantly increase their life expectancy.”

Experts say that Mr. Tomlinson is living proof that a healthy change in lifestyle can save a person’s life. What else does he do to stay healthy besides walking daily? Mr. Tomlinson goes hiking, eats less meat and more fish, fresh fruits and vegetables. And he quit smoking. He said, “My pants are 5 inches smaller. I feel better. I don't have pain on a daily basis.”

Time magazine also reported on the study. “We all know the basic tenets of a healthy lifestyle–maintaining a good diet and waist size, exercising, not smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation. But how healthy will they get you, exactly?” says Time. The new study was published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study works to quantify the effects of a healthy lifestyle. It found that practicing these behaviors can prevent four out of five coronary events in men, and experts say this can probably be applied to women as well.

What were the exact results?

“Every good habit was associated with a reduced risk for heart attack. Eating a low-risk diet plus drinking alcohol in moderation was associated with a 35% reduced risk of heart attack compared to those in the high-risk group,” according to Time.

What was the difference between smokers and non-smokers? The study showed that men who do not smoke and walked or cycled at a minimum of forty minutes a day, exercised at least one hour a week (preferably more), had a waist circumference under around 37 inches, drank less, and consumed a diet of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, fish and whole grains actually had an eighty six percent lower risk of having a heart attack than those men who engaged in high-risk behaviors such as smoking.

Experts are emphasizing now more than ever (after this study and similar ones) that physicians need to coach their heart patients about this change in life style if they want to lead a long and healthy life.

Gerry Oginski
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