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Sep 23, 2014 05:26 AM EDT

Healthy Lifestyle Averts Most Coronary Events in Men, Study

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Healthy lifestyle can prevent most coronary events in men, according to a new study by Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.

Healthy lifestyle constitutes maintaining a healthy weight and diet, engaging in an exercise regime, quitting smoking and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.

The researchers said that attempts to lower mortality rates from heart diseases have been mostly achieved through medical therapies. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, however, prevents potential side effects of the medication. It is the most cost-effective method to lower coronary heart disease risk.

For the study, teh researchers followed 20,721 healthy Swedish men, aged between 45 and 79 years, for 11 years. The participants were also surveyed on their diet, alcohol consumption, smoking status, level of physical activity and abdominal adiposity (belly fat).

The researchers found that participants following a healthy diet along with moderate alcohol consumption, were associated with an estimated 35 percent lower risk of heart attack as compared to those with unhealthy diets and lifestyle.

Men - who ate a healthy diet, drank moderate levels of alcohol, quit smoking, were physically active and had low amounts of abdominal fat, had 86 percent lower risk.

"It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks," said Agneta Akesson, Associate Professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors."

The researchers said that less than 2 percent of the American population follow ideal cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular disease risk can be significantly lowered by promoting the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices. Patients undergoing medication, can further reduce the risk for chronic heart diseases by implementing a healthy lifestyle.

"It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors can have great impact on cardiovascular health," Akesson said. "However, the best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life."

According to a recent Indiana University study, heme iron, normally found in meat, poultry, and fish, increases the risk of coronary heart diseases by 57 percent.

"The observed positive association between heme iron and risk of CHD may be explained by the high bioavailability of heme iron and its role as the primary source of iron in iron-replete participants," the researchers said in a statement. "Heme iron is absorbed at a much greater rate in comparison to non-heme iron (37 percent vs. 5 percent). Once absorbed, it may contribute as a catalyst in the oxidation of LDLs, causing tissue-damaging inflammation, which is a potential risk factor for CHD."

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