Researchers say lifestyle choices might have a role in women's risk for sudden cardiac death.
Their study, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that certain lifestyle choices, i.e. a Mediterranean style diet, healthy weight, not smoking, and exercise were linked to a smaller chance of sudden cardiac death, and added together, these factors were tied to a 92% reduced risk.
"The more you adhere to this healthy lifestyle, the better you are in terms of your risk of sudden cardiac death," said Dr Stephanie Chiuve from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Dr Chiuve and her colleagues looked at results from the Nurses’ Health Study, in which more than 81,000 women periodically answered surveys about health and lifestyle. During the 26 years of the study, 321 women suffered sudden cardiac death at an average age of 72.
Healthy lifestyle is key
Women who ate a diet closest to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest risk of sudden cardiac death – 40% less than women whose diets least resembled the Mediterranean diet.
Weight was tied to a similar effect on risk. Normal weight women were 56% less likely to suffer sudden cardiac death compared to obese women.
Exercise was also linked with a smaller chance of sudden cardiac death, and the more the women exercised, the smaller their risk. At least 30 minutes a day of exercise brought the risk of sudden cardiac death down by 28%.
Smoking was the biggest risk factor. Women who had never smoked were 75% less likely to suffer sudden cardiac death than women who smoked at least 25 cigarettes per day.
The researchers concluded that 81% of cases of sudden cardiac death were due to unhealthy lifestyles.
Dr Chiuve said the results are important for understanding who is at risk for sudden cardiac death. "The majority of cases of sudden cardiac death occur in the general population. Lifestyle is not something that's generally focused on in sudden cardiac death research," said Dr Chiuve. (Reuters Health, July 2011)