If you’ve not been living a healthy lifestyle all your life is there even a point to try and change things?
Would the sudden change make a difference at all?
According to experts, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle makes a difference, even if the change doesn’t come until middle age, reports ABC.
In fact, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina report that people who eat right and exercise more can substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease and death even if they’re in their 50s or 60s.
But what exactly is healthy-living?
According to health experts, you need to practice these four habits – Consume at least five fruits and vegetables daily, exercise at least 2.5 hours per week, maintain a healthy weight and don’t smoke. And if you do all these, you can lessen your chances of heart trouble by 35 percent, and your risk of dying by 40 percent, compared to people with less healthy lifestyles, according to the report in the July issue of the American Journal of Medicine.
“We call this the turning-back-the-clock study,” said lead researcher Dr. Dana E. King. “We want to emphasise that it’s not too late change, and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle don’t accrue only to people who have been doing this all along, but you can make changes in your 50s and 60s and have a healthier longer life because of it.”
Dr King’s team wanted to test if, if it’s too late to adopt healthy habits and improve your health at middle age.
In the study, they collected data on 15,792 men and women aged 45 to 64 who took part in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study and during four years of follow-up they discovered this – the benefit of switching to a healthy lifestyle after age 45 is clear and is possible even with modest changes in health habits.
“We found that it’s not too late,” he said. “The benefits were dramatic and immediate, even at age 65.”
“Some people in middle age don’t change, because they think the damage is done,” King said. “In fact, in this study, the chances of dying or having a heart attack were reduced by a third after just four years of living a healthy lifestyle.”
They also found that a healthy lifestyle was beneficial when compared with people with three or fewer healthy habits, not just compared to people with no healthy habits or only one of the healthy habits. While people with only three healthy habits had lower mortality, they did not reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, only 8.5 percent of people in the study practiced these four healthy behaviours – eat at least five fruits and vegetables daily, exercise at least 2.5 hours per week, maintain a healthy weight and don’t smoke – and only 8.4 percent adopted these lifestyle changes after age 45.
But it’s not just about heart health, another expert said that living healthy reduces your risk of other diseases too.
“Most experts agree that a health-promoting lifestyle — eating well, being active, not smoking — can cut overall risk of heart disease by 80 percent, cancer risk by 60 percent, and diabetes risk by 90 percent,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.
Dr King and his colleagues show that it may never be too late to start over, Dr Katz said. “Healthy living is the most powerful medicine of all. It requires no prescription, and all of the side effects are beneficial, too. It can, admittedly, be tough at times to get there from here, but it’s well worth it, and anytime is a good time to start.”
But they are not the only experts who have come to this conclusion. More and more researchers have come forward.
“These are very encouraging results,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab and Gershoff Professor of Nutrition at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University.
“They confirm that adopting heart-healthy behaviours, regardless of age, can lead to clear benefits,” Lichtenstein said. “Additionally, by identifying individuals who are more likely to adopt heart-healthy behaviours and who is not, more targeted programs to help the more unlikely ones to change can be developed.”