According to a study, maintaining a healthy lifestyle from young adulthood into your 40s is strongly associated with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age.
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, supporting the notion that lifestyle may play a more prominent role than genetics.
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 lifestyle factors reached middle age with the low cardiovascular risk profile, compared with fewer than 5 percent who followed none of the healthy lifestyle factors.
Researchers used data collected over 20 years from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) study. It began in 1985 and 1986 with several thousand 18 to 30 year-olds and has since followed the same group of participants.
For this study, the researchers analyzed data such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, BMI, alcohol intake, tobacco use, diet and exercise from more than 3,000 of the CARDIA participants to define a low cardiovascular disease risk profile and healthy lifestyle factors.
If the next generation of young people adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle, they will gain more than heart health, say the researchers.