Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent Four Out of Five Heart Attacks in Men

Madison Agee

Many men adopt healthier habits to get ready for a major life event, such as a family wedding, class reunion or once-in-a-lifetime vacation. But lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and more exercise can also help you avoid another major life event – a heart attack.

According to a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a healthy lifestyle could prevent four out of five coronary events in men.

The study followed more than 20,000 Swedish men aged 45-79 for 11 years, and assessed lifestyle choices related to tobacco use, diet, alcohol consumption, physical activity and waist size. Men who combined a healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption with not smoking, being physically active and maintaining a low amount of abdominal fat had an 86 percent lower risk of heart attack.

According to the authors, each individual lifestyle factor correlated with a clear reduction in risk, but a combination of the low-risk behaviors had the greatest impact. However, even incremental changes yielded improvement – not smoking, for example, decreases risk by 35 percent.

Dr. Dean Ornish also recommends combining multiple behavior changes to achieve maximum results in addressing heart disease and heart attack risk. His program is the first program that is scientifically proven to reverse heart disease by making changes in four areas. In addition to nutrition and fitness, the Ornish program also focuses on stress management and social and family support.

Changes in diet and lifestyle not only reduce your risk of a life-threatening event. Research shows that they also make a powerful difference in heart function and overall well-being. Patients in the Ornish cardiac rehabilitation program report that they feel more energized, enjoy a higher quality of life, can exercise longer and manage stress more effectively.

As patients, providers and employers are looking for ways to maximize well-being and minimize healthcare costs, preventing heart disease and modifying risk-related behaviors should be a priority. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and 620,000 people suffer a first-time heart attack every year. According to the American Heart Association, direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease and stroke total more than $315.4 billion annually, including health expenditures and lost productivity.

Help is available to individuals who want to make a change. Many high-risk patients qualify for intensive cardiac rehabilitation programs such as the Ornish program, which is covered by Medicare and many other commercial insurance plans. Workplace programs that incorporate a holistic approach to well-being should offer assessments and interventions to improve cardiac health. The American Heart Association also offers extensive guidelines and tips on nutrition, physical activity and stress management.

To learn more about the Ornish program, please visit