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Trimming heart disease risk.

Trimming heart disease risk

Middle-aged men who adopt healthy lifestyle changes can significantly reduce their risk of dying from a heart attack a decade later, researchers report.

Follow-up data on the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) show that the death rate from cardiovascular disease was 8.3 percent lower among the 6,428 men randomly assigned to a special treatment group--focusing on four heart-healthy habits -- than among the 6,438 men who received no special treatment during the 10-year trial. Cardiovascular disease is a broad category that includes heart attack, stroke, hypertension and related conditions. In narrowing the analysis to lethal heart attacks, the researchers found a 24 percent drop in deaths among the treatment group compared with the usual-care group.

Participants were 35 to 57 years old and at high risk of heart disease due to smoking or high blood cholesterol when recruited in the early 1970s. Researchers instructed those in the treatment group to lower their intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and to lose weight; they also placed the men in smoking-cessation programs and prescribed medication for high blood pressure. Men in the usual-care group received advice and/or treatment from their regular physicians only.

Scientists reported initial results in 1982 after observing the men for an average of seven years. At that time, the small number of deaths limited the trial's statistical power. Now, the team's analysis of the 10-year mortality data shows some statistically significant results, among them the 24 percent decline in heart attacks. The findings appear in the April 4 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION.

"We think the evidence points in the direction of a benefit from an intervention program such as this," says one of the principal investigators, Marcus O. Kjelsberg of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. While the data do not establish the relative benefits of the various lifestyle changes, they do run counter to recent suggestions that low-cholesterol diets offer no cardiovascular advantage (SN: 3/3/90, p. 132). Khelsberg acknowledges the limitations of a male-only study, but he says he believes intervention programs would also help women cut their risk of heart attack.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 14, 1990
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