Whole Heart

How to Slash Your Heart Disease Risk by 83%

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The more healthy "factors" in your lifestyle equation, the lower the risk.
(JOHN HENLEY/CORBIS/VEER)
Your genes don't ordain heart disease. Researchers are learning more about the lifestyle factors that predict heart health, and these are in your hands. A Harvard study of nearly 85,000 women identified these five healthy habits.

  1. Don't smoke.
  2. Drink at least half a glass of wine, or equivalent alcohol consumption, each day (but not more than a full glass, experts say).
  3. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity daily.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Eat a healthy diet. It should be low in trans fats but high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate; it should also have a lower glycemic load and a higher polyunsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio.

When three of the five healthy lifestyle factors above were present, risk for coronary heart disease over 14 years was reduced by 57%; when four were present, risk was reduced by 66%; and when all five factors were present, risk was reduced by 83%, the study found.

Next Page: Stress as a key factor

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