Better to Make the Choice to be Healthy, Even Late

There are a range of epidemiological studies showing that carrying excess weight for years is associated with a sizable raised risk of suffering all of the common age related diseases - even if you turn things around and lose that fat later. Keeping the fat is of course worse. Other studies show measurable benefits as a result of choosing to improve your health at near any age. Starting to exercise more rigorously or adopting calorie restriction in old age, for example, are both shown to be beneficial. It is of course more beneficial to have been doing it all along, but the point here is that it is silly to shrug your shoulders if you've been letting things go. You can always produce improvements in your future health prospects by choosing to do better.

When adults in their 30s and 40s decide to drop unhealthy habits that are harmful to their heart and embrace healthy lifestyle changes, they can control and potentially even reverse the natural progression of coronary artery disease, scientists found. "It's not too late. You're not doomed if you've hit young adulthood and acquired some bad habits. You can still make a change and it will have a benefit for your heart." On the flip side, scientists also found that if people drop healthy habits or pick up more bad habits as they age, there is measurable, detrimental impact on their coronary arteries. "If you don't keep up a healthy lifestyle, you'll see the evidence in terms of your risk of heart disease."

For this paper, scientists examined healthy lifestyle behaviors and coronary artery calcification and thickening among the more than 5,000 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study who were assessed at baseline (when participants were ages 18 to 30) and 20 years later.

The healthy lifestyle factors assessed were: not being overweight/obese, being a nonsmoker and physically active and having low alcohol intake and a healthy diet. By young adulthood (at the beginning of the study), less than 10 percent of the CARDIA participants reported all five healthy lifestyle behaviors. At the 20-year mark, about 25 percent of the study participants had added at least one healthy lifestyle behavior. Each increase in healthy lifestyle factors was associated with reduced odds of detectable coronary artery calcification and lower intima-media thickness - two major markers of cardiovascular disease that can predict future cardiovascular events.



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