Middle-aged adults 'should eat well and exercise to reduce risk of health issues in later life'

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Middle-aged adults who follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly may be less likely to develop heart disease or Type 2 diabetes in later life.

New research using data from the Framington Heart Study – which began more than 70 years ago - has shown that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and staying physically active could be the secret to achieving optimal cardiometabolic health in years to come.

Cardiometabolic health risks include metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, insulin resistance and excess fat around the waist.

Metabolic syndrome can increase the risk of developing a stroke, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.

"Health care professionals could use these findings to further promote and emphasise to their patients the benefits of a healthy diet and a regular exercise schedule to avoid the development of numerous chronic health conditions in the present and in later life," said corresponding author Vanessa Xanthakis, assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics in the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine.

"The earlier people make these lifestyle changes, the more likely they will be to lower their risk of cardiovascular-associated diseases later in life."

The data collected showed that healthy eating and regular exercise – defined as 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week - were linked to lower odds of metabolic syndrome and other serious health issues.

The physical activity level of participants, all selected from the third generation of the Framington Heart Study, was recorded by a device worn on the hip for eight days which tracked movement. Food questionnaires were completed by participants to analyse their eating habits.

New research shows the participants who enjoyed a balanced diet were 33 per cent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, while those who followed both diet and exercise guidelines had a 65 per cent lower risk.

"It is noteworthy that we observed a dose-response association of adherence to diet and physical activity guidelines with risk of cardiometabolic disease later in life," Xanthakis said. "Participants who met the physical activity guidelines had progressively lower risk of cardiometabolic disease as they increased adherence to the dietary guidelines."

The new research was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.