Four healthy habits that could save your life

Johns Hopkins researchers examine the impact of healthy changes on mortality

Topics: Behavioral Health, Service Lines, Cardiovascular, Access to Care, Quality, Performance Improvement, Mortality

June 4, 2013

Four lifestyle changes—including the adoption of an olive oil-rich diet—can reduce a person's mortality risk by 80%, according to a multi-center study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

For the study, researchers from the Johns Hopkins' Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease studied nearly eight years of data on more than 6,200 U.S. adults ages 44 to 84 participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. The researchers identified four healthy habits that influenced participants' mortality risks over the study period:

  • Exercising;
  • Eating a Mediterranean diet;
  • Maintaining a normal weight; and
  • Abstaining from smoking.

Specifically, the researchers found that those who adopted all four habits were 80% less likely to die from all causes over the eight-year study period than those who had none of the four habits.

In addition, the researchers determined that participants who adopted the four behaviors were better protected from early calcium buildup in cardiovascular arteries, as well as coronary heart disease.

"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," lead author Haitham Ahmed says, adding that while "there are risk factors that people can't control, such as their family history and age, these lifestyle measures are things that people can change and consequently make a big difference in their health."

Of the four lifestyle changes examined in the study, co-author Roger Blumenthal says that smoking cessation was the most significant way to improve a person's health.

"In fact, smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviors still had lower survival rates after 7.6 years than did non-smokers who were sedentary and obese," he says (Johns Hopkins release, 6/3; UPI, 6/3; Hope, Daily Mail, 6/2).

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