An intensive effort to change the lifestyle among individuals at high risk of heart disease can help them reduce risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking.

The Euroaction study, published inĀ The Lancet, compared the results of added counseling on lifestyle issues including diet, physical activity and smoking, to usual care. The study included over 3,000 people with coronary heart disease and over 2,000 who were at high risk of developing the disease. Half of the group were counseled by a team of nurses, dietitians, physiotherapists and the treating doctors. The counseling was given to families as well as individuals.

Two groups of patients were studied. One group included patients who already had developed coronary heart disease. The second group included those who were asymptomatic but at high risk on account of a combination of risk factors that increase the chances of developing heart disease over 10 years.

About 55% of those receiving the counseling reduced their intake of saturated fat compared to 40% of those not getting counseling. Consumption of fruits and vegetables increased in 72% of the counseled patients, and 17% of them also increased their consumption of heart-friendly oily fish, compared to 35% and 8% in the group not receiving counseling. Similar results were seen for blood pressure, cholesterol and physical activity; however, it appeared to be difficult to have people seen in general practice quit smoking.