The heart is more forgiving than you may think — especially to adults who try to take charge of their health, a new Northwestern Medicine® study has found.


When adults in their 30s and 40s decide to drop unhealthy habits that are harmful to their heart and embrace healthy lifestyle changes, they can control and potentially even reverse the natural progression of coronary artery disease, scientists found.


The study was published June 30 in the journal Circulation.


“It’s not too late,” said Bonnie Spring, lead investigator of the study and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “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.”


On the flip side, scientists also found that if people drop healthy habits or pick up more bad habits as they age, there is measurable, detrimental impact on their coronary arteries.


“If you don’t keep up a healthy lifestyle, you’ll see the evidence in terms of your risk of heart disease,” Spring said.


The healthy changes made by people tracked in the study are attainable and sustainable, Spring said. She offered some tips for those who want to embrace a healthy lifestyle at any age:


  • Keep a healthy body weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity five times a week
  • No more than one alcoholic drink a day for women, no more than two for men
  • Eat a healthy diet that’s high in fiber and low in sodium, with lots of fruit and vegetables

 

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