Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Healthy Lifestyle Cuts Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Study Shows Heart Benefits of Following a Lifestyle That Includes Exercise and Healthy Diet
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 5, 2011 -- Leading a healthy lifestyle that includes not smoking, keeping weight down, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet can dramatically reduce risk of sudden cardiac death, a study shows.

The study is published in TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

Sudden cardiac death is different from a heart attack. It is the abrupt loss of heart function that occurs when problems develop in the heart's electrical impulses. Between 250,000 to 310,000 people experience sudden cardiac death in the U.S. each year.

According to the study, women with a low-risk lifestyle -- defined as not smoking, having a healthy body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, exercising for 30 minutes a day or longer, and keeping a heart-healthy Mediterranean-style diet -- were 92% less likely to experience sudden cardiac death compared with those who did not follow the low-risk lifestyle.

"We know that a healthy lifestyle is very important to prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. So we weren't surprised but we were impressed at how strongly associated these lifestyle factors were for preventing sudden cardiac death," says study researcher Stephanie E. Chiuve, ScD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Researchers analyzed data on lifestyle factors of 81,722 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study from June 1984 to June 2010. Overall, there were 321 cases of sudden cardiac death among women during 26 years of follow-up. Each healthy habit conferred a lower risk of sudden cardiac disease on its own, but risk for sudden cardiac death was lowest among women who followed all four options of the healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Choices Reduce Heart Risk

Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, calls the new findings "so significant and so empowering."

If "you never smoke, exercise 30 minutes a day, don't gain too much weight, and eat a Mediterranean-style diet, you will reduce your risk for sudden cardiac death, and your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, too," she says. A Mediterranean diet includes fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, nuts and fish, and includes moderate alcohol consumption.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure