Study: Healthy lifestyle
cuts heart risk more than 80 percent in women
July 6, 2000
ATLANTA (CNN) -- The guidelines are familiar: Eating right, exercising and not
smoking can reduce the risk of heart disease. Now research shows those benefits can be
dramatic for women.
"I was surprised the magnitude was so large -- over 80 percent reduction in
risk," said study leader Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard University and Brigham and
Women's Hospital, Boston.
The results are published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.
Stampfer and other researchers at Harvard tracked the lifestyles of 84,129 women nurses
during 14 years and measured their susceptibility to heart disease -- the number-one
killer of adult Americans.
The women with the lowest risk for heart disease didn't smoke, ate a healthy diet,
exercised at least 30 minutes a day, maintained a good weight and consumed no alcohol or
drank in moderation (two glasses of wine per day, for example), reported the researchers.
Those results reaffirm what doctors have long believed. "The vast majority of heart
disease could be eliminated if everyone adopted a healthy lifestyle," Dr. Stampfer
Dr. Nanette Wenger, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, said the study's results
are what "most of us who believe so strongly in prevention would want to see -- the
fact that women who do very simple lifestyle interventions get benefits."
A new convert to regular exercise and better eating is Joan Brendle-Mutter of Atlanta. She
changed her lifestyle after learning that her blood pressure and cholesterol were high.
"It has to become a priority," she said. "You have to care enough about
yourself to let it become a priority."
But that, researchers said, may be the biggest challenge: getting Americans to make the
necessary lifestyle changes that will bring heart benefits
CNN Medical Correspondent