Study Reinforces Link Between Lifestyle Choices, Cardiac Health

SPRINGFIELD — When it comes to heart disease, prevention is the best medicine.

“The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing coronary artery disease. But the good news is that 80{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of heart disease is preventable. You can prevent or delay heart disease by beginning today to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Quinn Pack of Baystate Medical Center’s Heart & Vascular Program.

In January, the American College of Cardiology published a study which reinforces what most doctors already know: a healthy lifestyle may prevent heart disease in nearly three out of four women. The study followed nearly 70,000 women for two decades and concluded that three-quarters of heart attacks in young women could be prevented if they followed six healthy lifestyle practices, including no smoking, a normal body-mass index, physical activity of at least two and a half hours per week, watching no more than seven hours of television per week, consuming no more than one alcoholic drink per day on average, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Pack, who specializes in preventive cardiology, completed a two-year preventive-cardiology fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “My interests are in high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking, obesity, and diabetes. Those are the six big ones to control,” he said, referring to the risk factors he most often addresses with patients, both men and women.

So, while the study addresses women and heart disease, where does that leave men? “While this study was limited to women, I expect that the findings probably hold true for men as well,” Pack said. “In other words, if men follow these healthy lifestyle practices, I would expect that their chances of developing heart disease would decrease dramatically. Remember, up to 80{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of heart disease is preventable.”

While there is a strong genetic predisposition to heart disease in some families, Pack said that doesn’t automatically mean other family members will succumb to it. “While there really isn’t anything patients can do about genetics, it’s still important to know your family medical history. If your father died at age 40 from a heart attack, for example, as doctors we will want to evaluate and treat your risks more aggressively, as soon as possible.”

To learn more, visit baystatehealth.org/bhvp.