Heart disease is often thought of as a man's problem when in fact, one in three women will die from it while only one in thirty will die from breast cancer. Sudden cardiac death (SCD) often presents as the first (and therefore only) manifestation of heart disease and close to two thirds of the women who died from SCD had never complained of heart disease previously, compared to just half of the men who died from SCD.
However, in a study just published in JAMA today, the authors reported that four lifestyle characteristics, smoking, inactivity, overweight & poor diet, were noted to be independently associated with SCD in women. The more risk factors one had, the greater the risk of SCD. Vice versa, the smaller the number of risk factors, the lower the risk of SCD. Are the numbers strong & statistically valid? Well, the authors followed 81,722 women in the Nurses Health Study for 26 years to arrive at their conclusion.
In other words, the combination of not smoking, exercising 30 minutes daily, keeping body mass index <25kg/m2, and adhering to an alternate Mediterranean diet, was associated w/92% lower risk of SCD compared to someone who had none of these. Pick any 3 of the 4 and her risk of SCD was 67% lower, while any 2 of the 4 was associated w/59% lower risk and any 1 of the 4 w/46% lower risk. So anything is better than nothing but achieving all 4 isn't an impossible goal.
In case you're curious, an alternate Mediterranean diet was described as high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fish, along w/moderate alcohol (which as you'll recall for women is <1 glass wine/day).
Just think about it. The summer has just started. We've just celebrated our Independence Day. There won't be another holiday excuse rolling around for 2 more months. This is the perfect time to get our collective acts together and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Yes, we men can help the women in our lives since many studies demonstrate better outcomes when participants are held responsible to someone else to make these changes rather than doing them on their own. So let's all get healthier by Labor Day!