Your Lifestyle Choices: Are You Preventing Disease – or Inviting It?


Maverick Health and my book, A Nurse Practitioner’s Guide to Smart Health Choices, are all about using your lifestyle behaviors to prevent or control chronic diseases. I’ve been at this for over a decade now and every day I read studies and hear news-bites that only validate what I write about on this blog and talk about in my book.

But until you know what I know and, more importantly, act on what you know all this information is useless. This post is about a study in Europe that looked at how well people controlled their risk factors after they’d already had a heart attack or serious cardiac event. Reviewers that read the study found its results “ominous”.

The Study

Researchers reviewed data from 3 surveys done in Europe – EUROASPIRE I, II, and III (1995–1996, 1999–2000, and 2006–2007). The researchers used these surveys to see how well cardiovascular prevention guidelines were being followed in clinical practice in eight countries. There finding were published in the medical journal Lancet in March 2009.

Men and women age 70 or younger (3180 in EUROASPIRE I, 2975 in EUROASPIRE II, and 2392 in EUROASPIRE III) were interviewed at least 6 months after coronary artery bypass grafting, angioplasty, or hospital admission for acute heart attack or chest pain.

[My note: once you have already had a heart attack – or a stroke, have diabetes, or other cardiovascular disease – strict risk factor control is critical to decreasing your risk of another event. This is called secondary prevention. If you have never had a cardiovascular event and do not have diabetes or other forms of cardiovascular disease the risks are still risks, but you have the chance to prevent disease. This is called primary prevention. The bottom line: risk factor reduction pays benefits – it is your choice whether you want to receive those benefits before or after you get sick.]

The Results

So how did people who had already had cardiac events do at controlling their risks after their event compared to before? Here is what the researchers found:

  • Smoking – nearly no change (except women under age 50, more of them were smoking!)
  • Obesity with BMI > or =30) – increased!
  • Diabetes – increased!
  • High blood pressure – no change!
  • High cholesterol – decreased.

This IS ominous.

What This Should Mean to You

Your health provider can encourage you to eat better, lose weight, and exercise. I can write books and post to this blog to try to educate you. But only you can change your lifestyle. Only you can save your own health.

I often say to my patients that if these conditions caused pain to the degree they put you at risk you would run to your health provider and beg for treatment. But because they are silent and don’t cause pain, your health provider has to beg you to treat them. Most of us just roll through our lives ignoring them, hoping they will go away on their own. But they won’t – not unless you attend to them.

My advice? Eat better, lose weight, and exercise. And ignore your health risks at your peril!


This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat. For that please seek direct care from a health professional.

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