The "EPIC" study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine studied how 23,000 people adhered to four simple behaviors: Not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Adhering to those four behaviors alone prevented 93 percent of diabetes, 81 percent of heart attacks, 50 percent of strokes, and 36 percent of all cancers.
Likewise, the INTERHEART study, published in the Lancet in 2004, followed 30,000 people in 52 countries. Researchers found changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90 percent of all heart disease.
Other research shows lifestyle intervention becomes more effective than almost any other traditional medical intervention to reduce cardiovascular disease, hypertension, heart failure, stroke, cancer, diabesity and deaths from all causes.
Your environment, in turn, changes gene expression, subsequently modulating inflammation, oxidative stress and metabolic dysfunction. These are the reasons we get sick and develop heart disease along with other problems.
That's actually good news. Addressing and fixing the root causes benefits most chronic disease. These modifications will make you feel alive and healthy without the side effects of medication.
Occasionally, I will use medications if I feel a patient shows a strong genetic predisposition for heart disease or if significant heart disease already exists. Under those circumstances, I carefully weigh a medication's risks and benefits.
At the same time, most patients can achieve the benefits of most medications through lifestyle changes.
Dr. David Jenkins from the University of Toronto compared treatment with statin drugs (the number one cholesterol medication) with a diet rich in viscous fiber, almonds, soy and plant sterols. Researchers in this study found that, while they created almost equal benefits, diet became more effective to lower inflammation and homocysteine (a risk marker for heart disease).