Common sense tells us that making positive lifestyle choices will improve health.
But many of us struggle to find the time in the week to exercise, and convenience food is all too appealing at the end of a busy day.
However, research from Sweden has spelled out the benefits of living a super-healthy existence, at least for your heart.
Experts from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm looked at the lifestyle of over 20,000 men aged 45 to 79. The results showed what they suspected, that men leading a healthy lifestyle had far less chance of suffering a heart attack than those living fast and loose.
What they didn’t expect was the degree to which it mattered. Over an 11-year period, the researchers found that:
Men deemed to lead a ‘super-healthy’ lifestyle were a staggering 86% less likely to experience a heart attack then their less healthy counterparts.
How to lead a healthy life
Those least at risk of suffering a heart attack were found to:
- walk or cycle for at least 40 minutes a day
- abstain from smoking
- eat healthily
- have a waistline that measured less than 37.4in
Writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers outlined a healthy diet as rich in:
- legumes, such as peas, beans, lentils, soybeans
- low-fat dairy products
- whole grains
Dr Agneta Akesson, who led the study, said: “It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks. What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.
“It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviours are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviours can have great impact on cardiovascular health. However, the best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life.”
The benefits of a healthy lifestyle
Here are some of the ways that changing your lifestyle can bring health benefits:
- reduces chance of suffering chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease
- lowers risk of osteoarthritis and hip fractures
- improves sleeping patterns
- cuts stress, depression and anxiety
- increases lung capacity and improves breathing
- reduces chance suffering heart disease, lung cancer and chronic bronchitis (for more information, see What are the effects of smoking?)
- improves fertility
- results in a better sex life due to improved blood flow
- reduces risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
- boosts energy levels
- improves bowel health
- helps in losing weight
Excessive fat around your middle can increase your chances of developing:
- diabetes (see Diabetes and Weight Loss)
- heart disease
You don’t have to abstain from all treats to keep yourself fit and healthy. But regular exercise, moderate drinking, and a balanced diet all work to stave off some major diseases and help keep you healthy in mind and body.