WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A healthy lifestyle during midlife is associated with less subclinical atherosclerosis among women, according to a study published online Nov. 28 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Dongqing Wang, M.P.H., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used self-reported data on smoking, diet, and physical activity from 1,143 women in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation to construct a 10-year average Healthy Lifestyle Score (HLS) during midlife. Fourteen years after baseline, markers of subclinical atherosclerosis were measured, including common carotid artery intima-media thickness (CCA-IMT), adventitial diameter (CCA-AD), and carotid plaque.

The researchers found that in fully adjusted models, average HLS correlated with smaller CCA-IMT and CCA-AD. Participants in the highest versus the lowest HLS level had 0.24 mm smaller CCA-IMT and 0.16 mm smaller CCA-AD, equivalent to 17 and 24 percent of the standard deviation of CCA-IMT and CCA-AD, respectively. Of the three components of HLS, the strongest correlation with subclinical atherosclerosis was seen for abstinence from smoking.

“The low prevalence of a healthy lifestyle in this group of midlife women highlights the potential for lifestyle interventions aimed at this vulnerable population,” Wang said in a statement. “Our prospective analysis clearly suggests that women approaching menopause can significantly lower this risk if they adopt healthier behaviors, even if cardiovascular issues have never been on their radar.”

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