Lifestyle Practices May Prevent Most Heart Attacks in Men

Agneta Åkesson Associate professor, senior lecturer  Photo by Anna Persson                                                                   Nutritional Epidemiology IMM Institute of Environmental Medicine Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, Interview with
Agneta Åkesson
Associate professor, senior lecturer                                                  Nutritional Epidemiology
IMM Institute of Environmental Medicine
Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, Sweden

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Åkesson: Our study indicates that a healthy diet together with low-risk lifestyle practices such as being physically active, not smoking and having a moderate alcohol consumption, and with the absence of abdominal adiposity may prevent the vast majority of myocardial infarctions in men.

Medical Research: 

What was most surprising about the results?

Dr. Åkesson: Well, I would say that the clear drop in risk of myocardial infarction by the adherence to each additional single low-risk factor. And the dramatic drop in risk observed in men combining all five low-risk factors. (I may also say that the very low prevalence of the combined healthy lifestyle behavior was a bit surprising…)

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Åkesson: A general comment is that diet and lifestyle are important tools to prevent cardiovascular disease in the population. On a population level, a meaningful decrease in disease incidence could be obtained even if parts of the population adhered to the healthy lifestyle behavior. For patients I would point out the steps shown in the central illustration as they are informative. I would also emphasize that all five low-risk factors are modifiable. It is also important to point out that practicing some of the low-risk factors or parts of them is better than practicing none of them. This is also important for men at higher cardiovascular risk such those with hypertension and high cholesterol levels. Although it is of great importance that these factors are modifiable, extensive prevention can only be achieved through inhibiting the initiation and establishment of any high risk behavior already early in life.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Åkesson:To develop population-based strategies to promote healthy behaviors that can be introduced early in life and maintained throughout the life span.


Åkesson A, Larsson SC, Discacciati A, Wolk A. Low-Risk Diet and Lifestyle Habits in the Primary Prevention of Myocardial Infarction in Men: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(13):1299-1306. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.06.1190.

Last Updated on November 10, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD