CHARLESTON, SC -- The old saying "better late than never" really is true when it comes to healthy lifestyle behaviors. People 45 to 64 years old who added new healthy lifestyle behaviors could substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reduce their death rate, according to a study published in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

People in the study who ate at least five fruits and vegetables daily, exercised at least two and a half hours per week, maintained their body mass index between 18.5 and 30, and didn’t smoke saw a 35 percent decrease in CVD incidence and a 40 percent drop in mortality compared to people with less healthy lifestyles.

"The potential public health benefit from adopting a healthier lifestyle in middle age is substantial. The current study demonstrates that adopting four modest healthy habits considerably lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in a relatively short-term four-year follow up period," says, Dana E. King, MD, the leading investigator of the study. "The findings emphasize that making the necessary changes to adhere to a healthy lifestyle is extremely worthwhile, and that middle age is not too late to act."

The authors found that only 9 percent of middle-aged adults practice these four behaviors, and only 8 percent adopt such a lifestyle past age 45. In addition, men, African-Americans and individuals with less than college education, lower income, or a history of hypertension or diabetes are less likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle past age 45 and are therefore at greater risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease.