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Five Steps That Men Can Take to Avert a Heart Attack

5 habits for a healthier heart 3:26

Men who take just five healthy steps can reduce their odds of a heart attack by four-fifths, but just 1 percent of men do so on their own, according to new research published Monday. The steps are nothing secret: They are not smoking, drinking moderately, exercising daily, eating a healthy diet and keeping the belly in check. "It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks," said Agneta Akesson of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, who led the study. "What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors."

Her team studied 20,000 Swedish men for 11 years and found that not smoking lowered the risk of heart attack the most. The men who didn’t smoke lowered their risk by 36 percent, and men who walked or cycled for at least 40 minutes per day and did other exercise at least one hour per week had a 3 percent lower risk. Those who had a waist circumference below 37 inches had a 12 percent lower risk. Those who who drank no more than about two drinks a day had an 11 percent lower risk. Those who ate plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish had an 18 percent lower risk. Hardly anyone did all five. “Only 1 percent of the population comprised the low-risk group and thus followed this set of healthy lifestyle practices of their own accord,” Akesson’s group wrote in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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— Maggie Fox