Healthy Lifestyle Cuts Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

It’s so simple, it’s elegant. When you eat good Pritikin-style food and exercise regularly, you dodge one disease bullet after another. Heart attacks. Strokes. Diabetes. Hypertension. Cancers. And now, new research has found, sudden cardiac death.

Leading a Pritikin-style life (regular exercise and a healthy diet focused on vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and fish) can dramatically reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, recently published research in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed.*

Sudden cardiac death is different from a heart attack. It is the abrupt loss of heart function that results from problems with the heart’s electrical impulses. It accounts for more than half of all heart-related deaths in the U.S.

No warning

Tragically, pointed out the authors of the JAMA study, “the majority of sudden cardiac deaths occur as the first manifestation of heart disease, especially among women.”

The researchers, led by Stephanie E. Chiuve, ScD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, analyzed data on lifestyle factors and medical conditions/deaths of nearly 82,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study for 26 years, from 1984 to 2010. Every two to four years, habits like food choices and exercise routines were assessed via questionnaires.

Four key lifestyle factors

Four lifestyle factors were significantly and independently linked with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death:

  1. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day
  2. Eating a diet full of whole, fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains, plus fish, nuts, and moderate alcohol intake
  3. Maintaining a body mass index lower than 25
  4. Not smoking
92% less risk of sudden cardiac death

The women who followed all four healthy lifestyle factors were 92% less likely to suffer sudden cardiac death compared to those who did not follow any of the four factors.

One size fits all

More and more, it seems that one size (healthy living) really does fit “all.” A healthy Pritikin lifestyle has been proven over the past three decades to prevent and reverse many epidemic conditions like coronary artery disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension. And lately, news about the many additional benefits of a healthy lifestyle just keeps getting better and better.

New research is finding that a healthy lifestyle helps keep our brains sharp, lessens arthritis pain, reverses impotence, prevents macular degeneration, reduces stress, wards off depression, ramps up energy levels, increases bone density, and much more, including, as the new JAMA study found, cutting the risk of sudden cardiac death.

When we eat well and stay active, we live well. We live long. It’s that simple. And powerful.


* JAMA, 2011; 306 (1): 62.



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