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Women who consume healthy diets & avoid smoking have greatest opportunity to prevent heart disease

Boston University : 01 March, 2004  (Technical Article)
Women who consume
“We found that lower-fat diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy foods in combination with the avoidance of smoking significantly reduce a woman’s likelihood of having early evidence of cardiovascular disease,” said Paula A. Quatromoni, D.Sc., M.S., R.D., co-author of the study and assistant professor of nutrition at Boston University’s Sargent College.

Among 1423 women who were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study, Quatromoni and her colleagues found that those who ate heart healthy diets and who had never smoked had the lowest odds of sub-clinical heart disease, measured as carotid artery “stiffness” 12 years later. These women were 80% less likely to have early signs of heart disease compared to women who smoked and ate diets that were markedly divergent from current dietary guidelines. Even among smokers, women who ate more heart healthy diets experienced a noticeable 44% lower risk.

Quatromoni hopes that this research will empower women to be proactive to reduce their risk of this deadly disease. “Combined behavioral programs that encourage and sustain healthy eating habits and smoking cessation will be of great value to women.”

The bottom line? “Positive lifestyle behaviors go hand-in-hand. Healthy eating and tobacco control are essential to the primary prevention of heart disease in women,” said Quatromoni. “With the increased recognition that heart disease is a serious health concern for women, it is more important than ever to take an assertive role in its prevention.”

Heart disease is the number one killer of American women and will be responsible for over 500,000 deaths this year.

Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is an institution of higher education and research whose premier academic programs prepare dynamic health professionals and whose research and leadership in the health and rehabilitation sciences is actively shaping health care. For more information about Sargent College and to learn about their degree programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, communication disorders, health sciences, athletic training, nutrition, and rehabilitation counseling, visit

The Framingham Nutrition Study is an ongoing study initiated in 1948 as a longitudinal population-based investigation of cardiovascular disease. Barbara E. Millen, D.Ph., R.D., F.A.D.A., was the Principle Investigator on this study and is affiliated with the Boston University School of Public Health and the Boston University School of Medicine.
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