If your doctor told you it was possible to prevent your future heart attack just by making a few changes in your lifestyle, would you? Swedish researchers found the benefits of following a healthy regimen dramatically lowered the risk of heart attacks in men.

Heart attack risk can be evaluated at home by looking at lifestyle choices that are under your control, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, diet, type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and in some cases high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Assocation. When researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, tried to determine a man’s risk and how it fluctuates depending on certain factors, they found a certain five-step combination was the key to lowering heart attack risk up to 86 percent, giving hope to an unhealthy country. The clear reduction in heart attack risk for each individual puts responsibility into the hands of Americans and steps back to let them save their own lives.

"It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks," the study’s lead author Agneta Akesson, associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, said in a press release. "What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors."

For 11 years, researchers studied 20,721 healthy Swedish men between the ages of 45 to 79 to figure out what practices were most important to lower their risk of heart attack. After they measured their diet, alcohol and smoking habits, level of physical activity and belly fat, they found non-smokers who walked or cycled at least 40 minutes a day, exercised one hour a week and had a waist circumference less than 37 inches, consumed moderate levels of alcohol, and had a balanced diet had the lowest risk. Who knew? Their diets typically followed regular consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains, and fish, which can explain why their blood pressure and cholesterol levels would be in check and lower risk.

A simple two-step combination of a low-risk diet with moderate alcohol consumption lowered the risk of heart attack by 35 percent. Add on three more lifestyle changes, and a man who combined a low-risk diet without smoking, had moderate levels of alcohol consumption, was physically active, and had low abdominal fat, actually lowered the risk by 86 percent compared to those who didn’t follow those simple rules.

"It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors can have great impact on cardiovascular health," Akesson said. "However, the best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life."

Source: Akesson A. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2014.