Maintaining a healthy lifestyle from young adulthood into your 40s is strongly associated with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age, according to a new Northwestern Medicine® study.

“The problem is few adults can maintain ideal cardiovascular health factors as they age,” said Kiang Liu, PhD, first author of the study. “Many middle-aged adults develop unhealthy diets, gain weight, and aren’t as physically active. Such lifestyles, of course, lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and elevated cardiovascular risk.”

“In this study, even people with a family history of heart problems were able to have a low cardiovascular disease risk profile if they started living a healthy lifestyle when they were young,” Liu said. “This supports the notion that lifestyle may play a more prominent role than genetics.”   Published Feb. 28 in the journal Circulation, this is the first study to show the association of a healthy lifestyle maintained throughout young adulthood and middle age with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age.

The majority of people who maintained five healthy lifestyle factors from young adulthood (including a lean body mass index (BMI), no excess alcohol intake, no smoking, a healthy diet and regular physical activity) were able to remain in this low-risk category in their middle-aged years.

In the first year of the study, when the participants’ average age was 24 years old, nearly 44 percent had a low cardiovascular disease risk profile. Twenty years later, overall, only 24.5 percent fell into the category of a low cardiovascular disease risk profile.    Sixty percent of those who maintained all five healthy lifestyles reached middle age with the low cardiovascular risk profile, compared with fewer than 5 percent who followed none of the healthy lifestyles.

If the next generation of young people adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles, they will gain more than heart health, Liu stressed.

“Many studies suggest that people who have low cardiovascular risk in middle age will have a better quality of life, will live longer and will have lower Medicare costs in their older age,” he said. “There are a lot of benefits to maintaining a low-risk profile.”

Liu is a professor and the associate chair for research in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Source:  Erin White, Northwestern NewsCenter




One of the main reasons that fewer people are living the healthy lifestyle, it the lack of time and the sheer number of possibilities to get unhealthy foods. But I also believe that it will change for the better again, you are getting new healthy alternatives by the dozen everyday. Thereby giving the families the option to live the healthy lifestyle, which they for the most part do buy. And regularization on the unhealthy food might be a valid way to go, here in Denmark where I'm from we got a new fat tax this year. Namely because ppl where living more and more unhealthy, so in order to break that cycle they added the fat tax. And we can already see that ppl are buying healthier foods, thus breaking cycle of an unhealthy lifestyle. I hope that you could use some input from Denmark. :o)

I think that if you want to live healthy and prosperous for a long period of time, you need to adopt healthy habits early in your lifetime. You need to take action before you're in your 40's and realize that you are out of shape and are struggling with health issues. A healthy lifestyle needs to be adopted at a young age and practiced throughout life. Great article!

I strongly agree with the article you write. That healthy living is very important for us all. I myself tried to make healthy lifestyle by way of regular exercise. but one thing that until now could not be done is to stop smoking. maybe you have special tips how I can stop from this one activity. Thank you.

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