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5 Ways to Cut Women's Heart Attacks

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Can Slash Women's Heart Attack Risk by Up to 92%
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Heart Healthy Lifestyle

Oct. 22, 2007 -- New research shows that women could cut their heart attack risk by up to 92% by doing these five things:

  • Eat lots of veggies, fruit, fish, whole grains, and legumes.
  • Drink a moderate amount of alcohol.
  • Practice girth control (keep your waist trimmer than your hips).
  • Walk or bike for 40 minutes daily and get another hour of weekly exercise.
  • Don't smoke.

That may be familiar advice. But the new study makes the payoff for a heart-healthy lifestyle crystal clear.

Mission Possible

"The five healthy diet and lifestyle factors are not impossible to follow," researcher Agneta Akesson, PhD, MPH, tells WebMD via email.

The study shows "how much YOU can -- based on your own motivation -- decrease your risk of [heart attack] by the different healthy lifestyle factors and in particular by the combined healthy diet and lifestyle," says Akesson.

"It is up to ourselves what we choose to follow," says Akesson, who works in the nutritional epidemiology division at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Preventing Women's Heart Attacks

Akesson's team studied more than 24,000 postmenopausal women in Sweden.

In 1997, the women reported their diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits. None had cancer, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes at the time.

Akesson and colleagues followed the women for six years, on average. During that time, 51 women died of a heart attack and 257 women survived a heart attack.

Heart attacks were 92% less likely in women who had all five heart-smart habits compared with women with none of those habits.

But not many women were in that group. Only 5% of the women claimed to have all five heart-healthy habits.

If all the women had been in that group, more than three-quarters of the heart attacks might have been prevented, the study shows.

Step by Step

Every heart-healthy habit helped prevent heart attacks in the women in Akesson's study.

For instance, women who ate healthfully and drank modestly were 57% less likely to have a heart attack than other women.

That's not as high as the 92% drop in heart attack risk for women who also didn't smoke, had a healthy waist-to-hip-ratio, and exercised regularly. But it's better than nothing.

The study appears in today's edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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