Turning back the clock: adopting a healthy lifestyle in middle age

Am J Med. 2007 Jul;120(7):598-603. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.09.020. Epub 2007 Apr 19.


Purpose: To determine the frequency of adopting a healthy lifestyle (5 or more fruits and vegetables daily, regular exercise, BMI 18.5-29.9 kg/m2, no current smoking) in a middle-aged cohort, and determine the subsequent rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality among those who adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Methods: We conducted a cohort study in a diverse sample of adults age 45-64 in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities survey. Outcomes are all-cause mortality and fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease.

Results: Of 15,708 participants, 1344 (8.5%) had 4 healthy lifestyle habits at the first visit, and 970 (8.4%) of the remainder had newly adopted a healthy lifestyle 6 years later. Men, African Americans, individuals with lower socioeconomic status, or a history of hypertension or diabetes were less likely to newly adopt a healthy lifestyle (all P <.05). During the following 4 years, total mortality and cardiovascular disease events were lower for new adopters (2.5% vs 4.2%, chi2P <.01, and 11.7% vs 16.5%, chi2P <.01 respectively) compared to individuals who did not adopt a healthy lifestyle. After adjustment, new adopters had lower all-cause mortality (OR 0.60, 95% Confidence Interval [CI], 0.39-0.92) and fewer cardiovascular disease events (OR 0.65, 95% CI, 0.39-0.92) in the next 4 years.

Conclusions: People who newly adopt a healthy lifestyle in middle-age experience a prompt benefit of lower rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Strategies to encourage adopting healthy lifestyles should be implemented, especially among people with hypertension, diabetes, or low socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*