Partaking in healthy habits in your 20s pays off later in life, according to a new study.
Northwestern University researchers found that people who led healthy lifestyles as young adults (meaning a low body mass index, not drinking too much alcohol, not smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly) were also more likely to maintain their low risk for heart disease into middle age.
"In this study, even people with a family history of heart problems were able to have a low cardiovascular disease risk profile if they started living a healthy lifestyle when they were young," study researcher Kiang Liu, a professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. "This supports the notion that lifestyle may play a more prominent role than genetics."
The study, published in the journal Circulation, included health and lifestyle data from 3,000 participants of the long-term Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) study, who began the study between the ages of 18 and 30 and continued their involvement for 20 years.
The researchers found that over the first year -- when the average age of the study participants was 24 -- almost 44 percent of them had a low heart disease risk profile. Twenty years later, just 24.5 percent of the study participants had a low heart disease risk profile. Though the number declined as participants aged, the researchers discovered something important about their behavior: 60 percent of the people who kept up with the five healthy lifestyle habits fell into the low heart disease risk profile group. Meanwhile, less than 5 percent of people who didn't do any of the five healthy lifestyle habits fell into that risk profile group.
So moral of the story is, good habits when you're young pay off in the long run. If you're looking to change things around now, HuffPost blogger and motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., offers up some tips for identifying and then changing a bad habit.