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Women's Study: Exercise, Good Diet and Non-Smoking Greatly Reduce Sudden Heart Death Risk

The Nurses' Health Study finds that the risk of death from sudden cardiac arrest in white women can be lowered by 92 percent through lifestyle maintenance alone. Katherine Harmon reports

Eating right, exercising and not smoking are all important for staying healthy. But a new study shows that these lifestyle choices can reduce the risk a woman will die from sudden cardiac arrest by a full 92 percent.

More than a quarter of a million people die from sudden heart failure in the U.S. each year. And most had not been diagnosed with heart disease—or even considered high risk.

In the new study of more than 81,000 Caucasian women, about 80 percent of sudden deaths were linked to lifestyle factors.

Those with the lowest risk got at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, followed a healthful Mediterranean-style diet high in fibers and lean protein, were not overweight and didn’t currently smoke. The findings are in the Journal of the American Medical Association. [Stephanie Chiuve et al., "Adherence to a Low-Risk, Healthy Lifestyle and Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death Among Women"]

These preventive measures might be especially important for women, who are less than half as likely as men to be diagnosed with heart disease or dysfunction before a fatal attack.

And if these factors hold true for men and other groups of women, making healthy lifestyle choices could save more than 200,000 Americans from sudden cardiac arrest death each year.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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