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Study: Healthy lifestyle cuts heart risk more than 80 percent in women
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 said.
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.
Regular, brisk walking lowers risk of stroke in women, study says
American Heart Association National Center
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