Reading Time: 2 minutes
Photo by Tina Wallace

Two researchers at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute recently published a study proving that heart disease can be preventable if potential sufferers are willing to make lifestyle changes.

Sue Perron and Robert Reid conducted research on family members of people hospitalized due to heart disease. Participants were placed into two groups: one group received intervention and the other did not. People in the intervention group were educated on healthy eating, were encouraged to make goals for themselves, and received feedback on their progress. The ones who did not have the intervention were sent flyers and brochures about healthy eating, physical activity, and weight management.

According to the research, those in the intervention group were more likely to make the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce the risk of heart disease.

The study took place over the span of one year and included 426 participants.

“The effects of the health educator-led family heart health intervention on motivating and enabling behaviour change are impressive and clinically important,” wrote Reid, deputy chief of the Division of Prevention and Rehabilitation at the Heart Institute.

“Self-reported changes in physical activity, dietary patterns and smoking cessation were corroborated by improvements in objective measures such as body mass index, waist circumference, and expired carbon monoxide,” he wrote.

The report states that six people from the intervention group quit smoking after one year, compared to only one in the non-intervention group.

“Even though they have a family history of heart disease, it doesn’t mean they’re doomed,” Perron said. “Eighty per cent of the risk is modifiable.”

Perron is the project and research coordinator for the Prevention and Wellness Centre at the Heart Institute. She said an entire lifestyle change is necessary to maximize the modifiable risk and highlighted the importance of healthy eating patterns and increased exercise. At least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Perron said diet and exercise have major impacts on reducing one’s risk of heart disease or cardiovascular events later in life.

She said “there was no screening being done,” and that by approaching family members of hospitalized patients they were able to conduct their study using people who may potentially be at risk of heart disease. They intend to create awareness of the preventability of heart disease and cardiovascular events by educating people about their own power of prevention.

Researchers in Ottawa, New York, North Bay, and Halifax contributed to the study.