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Young adults who avoid smoking and heavy drinking, and who eat a healthy diet, exercise and stay lean, reduce their risk of developing heart disease when they reach middle age, a new study indicates.

The study of more than 3,000 participants found that when their average age was 24, almost 44 percent had a low risk of heart disease. By age 44, only 24.5 percent had a low risk of heart disease, UPI reports.

The researchers found that 60 percent of people who were able to maintain all five healthy lifestyles had a low risk of heart disease by the time they reached middle age, compared with fewer than 5 percent of those who followed none of the healthy lifestyles.

“The problem is few adults can maintain ideal cardiovascular health factors as they age,” researcher Kiang Liu of the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago said in a statement. “Many middle-age adults develop unhealthy diets, gain weight and aren’t as physically active. Such lifestyles, of course, lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and elevated cardiovascular risk.”

He noted that the study found even people with a family history of heart problems were able to have a low risk of heart disease if they started living a healthy lifestyle when they were young.

The results are published in the journal Circulation.

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