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A Long Life Free of Cardiovascular Disease

January 20, 2010

It seems that everyone can agree upon this statement: smoking, physical inactivity, and abdominal obesity increase the risks of coronary heart disease (CHD). But is there a way to measure the benefits of not smoking, having good cardiorespiratory fitness (measured by max treadmill test), and a normal waist girth?

Cardiovascular DiseaseThe authors of a new study appearing in the December 14-28, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine say their study may be the first to estimate these "combined health benefits". Their research indicated that men with none of these risk factors had:

The Heart.org tells us that Dr Chong-Do Lee and colleagues followed 23,657 men over the age of 30 for almost 15 years in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS). They found that:

  • Over this period, 482 men had a fatal or nonfatal Mitochondrial Infarction, and 1,034 died of noncardiac causes.
  • Men with a normal waist circumference, who kept physically active, and who didn't smoke were significantly less likely to have a CHD event or die of cardiac causes, as compared with men with none of these low-risk factors.
  • Risk of all-cause mortality was also dramatically lower in this group.
  • By comparison, men who smoked, were inactive, and who had a waist girth over 94 cm (37 inches) had an overall life expectancy that was 14 years shorter.

Investigators underscore a number of limitations in their study: the study cohort comprised mainly white, middle- to upper-class men and importantly, did not address changes in low-risk factors over the follow-up period. But overall, they say, their findings speak to the importance of adhering to healthy behaviors and a healthy weight over the long term.