While heart disease is one of the top killers of Americans, the number of cases has actually been on the decline recently. Despite this supposed downward trend, cases of heart disease in young women have stabilized. One possible explanation for this lack of
further decline in heart disease cases in young women could be related to lifestyle choices.
A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology explored this issue by evaluating the proportion of heart disease cases and cardiovascular risk factors among young women that may be related to poor diet and other lifestyle choices.
88,940 younger women between the ages of 27 and 44 were followed between 1991 and 2011.
Lifestyle habits were determined by self-reported questionnaires.
A “healthy lifestyle” was defined by: 1) non-smoker; 2) “normal” BMI; 3) being physically active for at least 2.5 hours per week; 4) watching TV for less than 7 hours per week; 5) eating a healthy diet (i.e. in the top 40% of Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 scores); and 6) consuming between 0.1 and 14.9g/day of alcohol.
Proportion of heart disease and risk factors (inc. diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia) were calculated.
As we get older, our risk of cardiovascular problems increases, particularly in the form of endothelial function and microvascular
strength and integrity. Part of the story is age, while another part might be related to diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices.
One recent study out of the UK examined whether or not this decline in endothelial function and microvascular integrity could be reversed when combining exercise and the Mediterranean diet for a total of 8 weeks. This study followed up with participants after one year, to determine if this improvement in cardiac function remained, or if when transitioning back to their pre-study diets their risk for declining endothelial and microvascular health once again increased to their pre-study levels.
This study measured various outcomes related to endothelial function and microvascular integrity on 20 individuals aged 55 and older. In the original study, half the participants participated in a specific exercise regime, while the other half was put on a specific Mediterranean diet plan and did the same exercise regime as the first group, all for 8 weeks.
One year later, the same outcomes related to endothelial function and microvascular integrity were measured on these 20 individuals.