The heart, it seems, is more forgiving than you may think — especially to young adults who try to take charge of their health. Researcher have found that picking up healthy habits in the 30s and 40s can slash heart disease risk.
When people in their 30s and 40s decide to drop habits that are harmful to their heart and embrace healthy lifestyle changes, they can control and potentially even reverse the natural progression of coronary artery disease, the findings showed.
“It is not too late,” said Bonnie Spring, professor of preventive medicine at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in the US.
“You are not doomed if you have hit young adulthood and acquired some bad habits. You can still make a change and it will have a benefit for your heart,” Spring added.
For the study, researchers examined healthy lifestyle behaviours and coronary artery calcification and thickening among the more than 5,000 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study who were assessed at baseline (when participants were aged 18-30) and 20 years later.
The healthy lifestyle factors assessed were: not being overweight/obese, being a non-smoker and physically active and having low alcohol intake and a healthy diet.
Each increase in healthy lifestyle factors was associated with reduced odds of detectable coronary artery calcification and lower intima-media thickness — two major markers of cardiovascular disease that can predict future cardiovascular events.
On the flip side, scientists also found that if people drop healthy habits or pick up more bad habits as they age, there is measurable, detrimental impact on their coronary arteries.
The study appeared in the journal Circulation.