Four lifestyle factors in particular were found to have the greatest risk reduction, and they shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
- Not smoking - kind of a no-brainer. I've never been a smoker, and I'm very glad of that. I have so many patients who want to quit smoking and just can't; it makes me sad for them. The decline in lung function and subsequent functionality is a tough consequence for people to understand, especially early on, when they don't feel poorly. It's not until significant lung function has been lost before people start to become symptomatic.
- BMI <25. I'm still working on this one. I've struggled with my weight my entire life, but at least I'm headed in the right direction at this point. I haven't hit the magic number yet, but I'm hopeful that in the next year or so, I'll be where I want to be. Maintaining it is a whole other story, but one step at a time...
- Exercise at least 30 minutes per day. I meet this goal on more days than not. I generally exercise in the morning when I first get up. Some weeks are better than others, but in general I try to be a fairly active person. Even if I'm not running or something like that, I like to be out in my garden pulling weeds and such. I make it a point to go up and down the stairs in my house multiple times per day.
- Eat a healthy diet - defined as high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and moderate in alcohol. Yep, this one I've got covered. In spite of my problems with my weight, I don't eat poorly on the whole. I'll have a cheesy poof here and there at a party, and I do indulge in sweet desserts from time to time, but my daily diet always includes at least 5 fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and some kind of whole grain. I eat mainly lean proteins and fish. I do drink wine, but it doesn't get out of hand.
I felt pretty good about my risk of sudden cardiac death after evaluating the lifestyle factors. There's room for improvement for sure - I need to work on getting in more dedicated exercise, and I'm still working on getting my BMI down to where it should be, but overall, I think I'm doing the right things for my health. And that makes me feel good.