Practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes adequate fitness activities and eating healthy is a great way to avoid lifestyle-related illnesses such as heart disease. A recent Harvard study provided detailed insights into the mechanisms involved in improving one’s cholesterol profile through lifestyle changes.
The study suggests that combining lifestyle changes or activities with medicines that lower cholesterol levels is possibly the best approach to making sure that the heart remains healthy. Drugs such as statins help to reduce the dangerous type of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Lifestyle adjustments such as lower alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise also lower LDL while promoting the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol also known as the healthy cholesterol.
Jiahui Si, the lead author in the study noted that there were previously no studies that compare the combined benefits of healthy lifestyle and cholesterol-lowering medication. Dr. Si and other researchers used targeted nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to evaluate 61 different lipid markers from blood samples collected from 4,681 study participants.
The study participants include healthy individuals and those that have previously suffered from coronary heart disease and stroke. The researchers evaluated the lipid markers of individuals who maintain healthy lifestyle habits and compared them to the lipid markers of individuals with barely any healthy habits. This approach yielded 50 lipid markers that are linked to healthy lifestyle habits.
After evaluating individuals diagnosed with coronary heart disease in the last 10 years and comparing that data with the results of 1,513 healthy individuals, they identified 35 lipid markers that are statistically significant. The study findings showed that individuals who maintained a healthy lifestyle had a 14% lower chance of contracting heart disease.
Evaluating the benefits of a hybrid approach
The researchers used a genetic scoring method to conduct a side-by-side comparison of healthy lifestyle benefits and the benefits of cholesterol lowering drugs in the study subjects. The findings from the scoring method revealed that both methods significantly reduce the risk of heart disease but healthy lifestyle behaviors are more effective at lowering LDL cholesterol than cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The study findings also proved that taking a combined approach of health lifestyle habits and cholesterol-lowering drugs helps to achieve the best possible level of heart health.