Two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirm what experts have often repeated: a healthy diet and lifestyle cuts the risk of heart failure dramatically.
Both studies were carried out by Harvard Medical School, Boston. One study (led by Dr. Luc Djousse) examined data from 20,900 men, and the other (led by Dr. John P. Forman) analysed of data from 83,882 women.
The men's study identified a number of key positive factors:
Maintaining a normal body weight, not smoking, regular exercise, moderate alcohol intake, consumption of breakfast cereals, and consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Men who managed four or more of these had a 10.1% risk of heart failure, whereas men who had none of these factors had double the risk at 21.2%.
The women's study looked at similar factors, though with a different focus on supplementation, and taking into account the use of pain medication:
Normal body weight, vigorous exercise for an average of 30 minutes per day, consuming a healthy diet, modest alcohol intake, use of pain medications less than once per week, and use of supplemental folic acid, a form of vitamin B.
If you put the two together, it may seem like a lot to stick to. But, one crucial point to note is that in the female study, one factor provided the most reduction in heart-disease and high blood pressure risk: normal body weight.
The factor with the single greatest impact on high blood pressure was body weight. Women who were obese were 4.7-times more likely to develop high blood pressure than were women of normal body weight.
If you have a medical history of high blood pressure, establishing and maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do to cut your risk.