“The benefits of healthy habits are well established, but it is unclear whether making health behavior changes as an adult can still alter coronary artery disease risk,” wrote Bonnie Spring, PhD, of the Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues in a study published in Circulation.
To assess the effect of health lifestyle factors on risk of coronary artery disease 20 years later, the researchers conducted a prospective cohort study with 3,583 patients aged 18 to 30 years of age at baseline.
At year 20, one or more healthy lifestyle factors, including not overweight/obese, low alcohol intake, healthy diet, physically active, and nonsmokers were adopted by 25.3% of the study participants; 34.4% stayed the same; and 40.4% had fewer healthy lifestyle factors. Almost one-fifth (19.2%) of patients had coronary artery calcification.
Each increase in healthy lifestyle factors was associated with decreased risk of detectable coronary artery calcification (odds ratio, 0.85; 95% CI: 0.74-0.98) and lower intima-media thickness (carotid bulb β = −0.024; P=0.001).
Each decrease in healthy lifestyle factor was associated with increased risk of detectable coronary artery calcification (OR, 1.17; 95% CI: 1.02-1.33) and greater intima-media thickness (carotid bulb β = +0.020; P<0.01).
“Healthy lifestyle changes during young adulthood are associated with decreased risk and unhealthy lifestyle changes are associated with increased risk for subclinical atherosclerosis in middle age,” concluded the researchers.