The magic bullet for heart health?

If you knew there was a “magic bullet” that would reduce your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by 92% and lower your risk of other cardiovascular risk factors, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, by 66%, would you take it?

A recent large, prospective study showed what appears to be the key to drastically reducing the risk for heart disease in women aged 27-44, potentially preventing more than 70% of CHD and almost half of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol diagnoses in this group.

What is this revolutionary new recommendation, you ask? A healthy lifestyle. Specifically, the following six healthy lifestyle habits, which, when followed together, slashed the risk factors and incidence of heart disease in young women:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Get at least 2.5 hours of physical activity every week (that’s only 30 minutes 5 days a week – you can do that!)
  • Eat a healthy diet (try a Mediterranean or DASH plan)
  • Maintain a healthy weight (to calculate your BMI, go here)
  • Watch less than 7 hours of TV per week
  • Drink alcohol in moderation (one drink a day for women, two a day for men)

Not exactly groundbreaking, and maybe not even front-page news, but the message is clear – you hold the power to prevent heart disease. The choices you make every day are what will keep you healthy—we already have the magic bullet!

The not-so-good news is that only about 5% of the 88,940 women monitored in the study followed all six healthy lifestyle habits consistently. But committing to some or even one of these habits proved to be beneficial!

While this study looked at young women, these healthy lifestyle habits work for men and women of all ages. In the spirit of American Heart Month, commit to being part of the small (but growing!) group of people following all six pieces of the heart-healthy puzzle.

Need help getting started? Check out the Million Hearts Initiative for information about preventing heart disease and stroke, heart-healthy recipes, and 28-day meal plans.

What change will you adopt this month to protect your heart?


Tracy Severson, RD, LD, is the dietitian for the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute. She specializes in nutrition counseling for cardiovascular health and weight management.