Principles and practice of nonpharmacological interventions to reduce cardiometabolic risk

Med Princ Pract. 2010;19(3):167-75. doi: 10.1159/000285280. Epub 2010 Mar 29.


The components of the metabolic syndrome, including prediabetes, prehypertension and dyslipidemia, represent prodromal stages of major cardiometabolic disorders. Lifestyle interventions have been shown to ameliorate or prevent the progression of individual components of the metabolic syndrome. The specific interventions utilized in randomized controlled studies often include dietary modification and physical activity. The effects of smoking cessation and the reduction of psychosocial stress on cardiometabolic risk factors need to be studied more. Because of the close concordance between the metabolic syndrome and multiple cardiometabolic diseases, the adoption of an effective lifestyle change upon initial recognition of the metabolic syndrome can be expected to delay or prevent the future development of sequelae such as diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Such a nonpharmacological approach to primary prevention and disease interruption carries enormous public health significance. Meeting the challenge of an implementation of effective lifestyle change at the community level requires (a) a system for the identification of at-risk populations, (b) an optimization of the knowledge base and practices of health care providers, and (c) a piloting of targeted biobehavioral intervention programs. Once identified, persons and communities at risk for cardiometabolic disorders can be empowered through increased health and nutritional literacy, the promotion of lifestyle interventions, provision of community resources, and pertinent legislative action that rewards preventive behavior. This paper reviews landmark studies that demonstrate the principles of nonpharmacological approaches to the reduction of cardiometabolic risk. We also discuss the physiological and emerging molecular genetic mechanisms that underlie the efficacy of lifestyle interventions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control