July 4, 2014 12:38 pm

5 ways young Canadians can reverse heart disease risk

You may have lived like you were invincible in your youth, but new research out this week suggests it’s not too late to undo any damage to your heart health.

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Remember the late-night Chinese food and beer binges of your 20s? You may have lived like you were invincible in your youth, but new research out this week suggests it’s not too late to undo any damage to your heart’s health.

The heart is more forgiving than you think – especially if you make your 30s and 40s count, according to U.S. doctors.

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Global News

“It’s not too late,” lead researcher Bonnie Spring, a Northwestern University professor, said.

“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,” Spring said.

READ MORE: Less than one in 10 Canadians have ‘ideal’ heart health, study warns

She suggests young adults can even reverse the natural progression of heart disease. And it goes both ways: give up on healthy habits during these years, and your arteries will show the evidence.

Spring’s findings are based on healthy lifestyle factors in more than 5,000 people between 18 to 30 years old who were followed up with 20 years later.

Healthy lifestyle factors included weight, smoking status, exercise levels, alcohol consumption and eating habits. At the start of the study, less than 10 per cent of young adults had all five healthy behaviours. Twenty years later, about 25 per cent had added at least one healthy behaviour to their lives.

But each time they tacked on a healthy habit, they reduced their odds of developing markers for heart disease.

READ MORE: 5 lifestyle changes to improve your heart’s health

Spring says her findings debunk some common theories – that bad habits are hard to break and that damage is permanent.

“Clearly, that’s incorrect. Adulthood is not too late for healthy behaviour changes to help the heart,” she said.

So what are these five healthy habits? Spring says they’re attainable and sustainable:

  1. Keep a healthy body weight
  2. Don’t smoke
  3. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five times a week
  4. Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink per day for women; no more than two for men
  5. Eat a healthy diet that’s high in fibre, low in sodium and packed with fruit and vegetables

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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