If you’re a twenty-something, make the commitment to a healthy lifestyle now. According to a new study, chances are you will keep your risk for cardiovascular disease low into middle age. Even if you have a family history of heart problems, healthy choices now could cancel out your genetic destiny.
Unhealthy middle age
Too many adults fail to maintain good cardiovascular health habits. By middle age, they eat unhealthy diets, aren’t as physically active and gain weight. As a result, they develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and elevated cardiovascular risk. However, researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have found that young adults who maintain a healthy lifestyle into their 40s keep those risk factors low.
The CARDIA study
Researchers used data collected over 20 years from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. CARDIA began following several thousand 18 to 30 year-olds participants in 1985 and 1986. To define low cardiovascular disease risk, they analyzed data on healthy lifestyle factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI), alcohol intake, tobacco use, diet and exercise for 3,000 of CARDIA participants.
During the first year of the study, about 44 percent of the participants 24-years-old had low cardiovascular disease risk. Twenty years later only 24.5 percent had kept their risk for cardiovascular disease low. Sixty percent who had maintained the healthy lifestyle factors listed above reached middle age with low cardiovascular risk compared with fewer than 5 percent who maintained none.
Start now to lower your risk
The earlier you start to alter your habits, the easier it will be to maintain a healthy heart throughout your life. Get started by making an appointment with your doctor for a complete physical. Get tested for blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, tryglycerides and fasting blood sugar. If you smoke, quit.
Add fiber and flush cholesterol out of your bloodstream with oatmeal and other whole grains. Eat heart-healthy foods with lots of antioxidants like blueberries, kale, strawberries, spinach, brussels sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, oranges, and red grapes. Protect yourself against inflammation, a major heart disease risk factor, with omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseed. Double down by making exercise a habit. Strive to get physical, even if you’re just going for a brisk walk, at least 30 minutes every day.
By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you will realize benefits that go beyond simple heart health. Low cardiovascular risk in middle age translates to lower health care costs and a higher quality of life.