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More Evidence Confirms Healthy Lifestyle Changes Lead to Lower Death Rates

Update Date: Jun 03, 2013 01:25 PM EDT

Leading a healthy lifestyle is never too late. Research has repeatedly found that swapping unhealthy habits for healthier ones can improve quality of life. In a new study headed by researchers from John Hopkins, four specific healthy lifestyle changes can dramatically improve one's overall wellbeing. The researchers found that these four changes could reduce the risk of heart disease, which subsequently will help lower the rates of death. The four changes that the researchers listed are exercising, eating a Mediterranean-influenced diet, maintaining a normal weight, and quitting cigarettes.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to find a protective association between low-risk lifestyle factors and early signs of vascular disease, coronary heart disease and death, in a single longitudinal evaluation," said Haitham Ahmed, M.D., M.P.H., the lead author of the study via Medical Xpress. Ahmed is an internal medicine resident with the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins.

The study reviewed data compiled from over 6,200 men and women who were between the ages of 44 and 84. The data was provided from the ongoing Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The participants were from white, African American, Hispanic and Chinese origins and were followed for an average of 7.6 years. At the beginning of MESA, the participants had to get their coronary calcium screened via computed tomography, also known as a CT scan. This allowed researchers to know whether or not certain individuals had early signs of calcium deposits found in heart arteries. The researchers also created a score measurement for the participants with zero being the least healthy to four being the healthiest.

The researchers found that the participants who adopted all four lifestyle changes lowered their death rate by 80 percent. This group of participants only made up two percent, equivalent to 129 people, of the entire sample set. The researchers found that of all four lifestyle factors, the one that led to the biggest decrease in death rate was smoking. When participants gave up smoking, they saw the largest increase in overall health.

The study, once again, confirms the relationship between healthier lifestyle choices and mortality rates. The study, "Low-Risk Lifestyle, Coronary Calcium, Cardiovascular Events, and Mortality: Results form the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis," was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology

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