We just finished breast cancer awareness month, but the number one killer of men and women in the Western world remains cardiovascular disease, which kills more people than ALL cancers combined. Every 34 seconds someone in the U.S. has a heart attack.
Is it inevitable? The simple answer is no! Heart attacks are preventable, and people who are dying or are maimed by weak hearts do not need to suffer.
It doesn't take a medical degree to stamp out hundreds of thousands of heart attacks yearly. While my book explains more than six dozen simple steps you can take to protect your heart from damage, the most important steps boil down to just six.
Several essential recently completed studies demonstrate how easy it is to protect yourself against heart attacks. Here are three, along with what they mean for you:
1. The MORGEN Study
Researchers in the Netherlands studied almost 18,000 men and women without heart disease. They followed them for up to 14 years, and more than 600 of the group had heart attacks including deaths. They found that if people followed four steps they were able to lower their risk of heart attacks by 67%:
- Averaging 30 minutes a day of physical activity
- Eating a healthy diet in the Mediterranean style rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Not smoking
- Enjoying more than one alcoholic beverage a month
People who added a fifth health habit — sleeping seven or more hours at night on average — lowered their risk of heart attacks by 83% compared to those not following these steps.
2. The Karolinska Study
Scientists in Sweden examined more than 20,000 men free of heart disease and followed them for 11 years. They found that there were certain habits that lowered the risk of heart attacks, including:
- A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and reduced fat
- No smoking
- Moderate alcohol consumption daily
- Thin waistlines
- More than 40 minutes of daily physical activity
Men who followed all five of these lifestyle habits had an 86% lower chance of developing or dying of heart attacks than those who followed none. Sadly, only 1% of the Swedes studied followed all five habits!
3. The Caerphilly Study
In England, 2,235 men were followed for an amazing 30 years. Five behaviors were tracked for the development of disease:
- No smoking
- Normal BMI (18-25)
- More than three servings daily of fruits and vegetables
- Walking more than two miles daily
- Controlled daily alcohol intake
Men in this study who followed four or five of these habits delayed the development of vascular disease by 12 years, although only 0.1% actually practiced all five! Furthermore, dementia was nearly 70% lower in those following these habits.
The message is clear. While you should learn about xenoestrogens in plastics, endocrine disruptors in toothpaste, air pollution, and plastic additives in bread, six simple habits can make heart attacks nearly extinct. The number one killer of men and women can be tamed with your fork, your feet, your fingers far from cigarettes, and some responsible use of a small glass of wine.
So it's as easy as simply sticking to these six simple habits:
1. Plant-based diet
2. Regular physical activity
3. No smoking
4. Occasional alcohol consumption (if it's not an issue)
5. Adequate sleep
6. Weight and waist control
Please help spread the word that lifestyle medicine prevents tragic and needless deaths. Together, we can make heart attacks a rarity. Parents can have more years with their families. Spouses don't need to mourn a deceased partner. Start today, because it's too important not to.
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