This is an edited excerpt of a Los Angeles Times editorial, which was published Monday.
CARDIOVASCULAR disease has been the leading killer of Americans in every year but one in this century -- 1918, when a virulent influenza epidemic swept the world. But evidence grows that heart disease is to a large extent preventable or at least we are able to postpone its eventual onset by sticking to a prudent way of life.
This is evident from the Nurses Health Study, which has been tracking female health professionals since 1980.
In findings presented to a meeting of the American Heart Association in Atlanta last week, the Harvard School of Public Health reported that study participants who followed commonplace recommendations for good health -- don't smoke, get some physical activity every day, eat healthily, avoid saturated fat, avoid getting fat -- reduced their chances of developing heart disease by as much as 82 percent. The findings appear to be applicable to men as well.
The apparent benefit of each of these dietary and behavioral habits has been known for some time. What's clearer now is their impressive combined effectiveness in lessening the chances of heart disease.
The lesson is evident: It's never too late to drop bad habits and never too early to start cultivating good ones.