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In many countries, there is enthusiasm for ‘healthy heart programmes’ that use counselling and educational methods to encourage people to reduce their risks for developing heart disease. These risk factors include high cholesterol, excessive salt intake, high blood pressure, excess weight, a high-fat diet, smoking, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle. This review is an update of all relevant randomised trials that have evaluated an intervention that aimed to reduce more than one risk factor (multiple risk factor intervention) in people without evidence of cardiovascular disease. The findings are from 55 trials of between six months and 12 years duration conducted in several countries over the course of four decades. The median duration of follow up was 12 months (with a range of six months to 12 years). Multiple risk factor intervention does result in small reductions in risk factors including blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking. Contrary to expectations, multiple risk factor interventions had little or no impact on the risk of coronary heart disease mortality or morbidity. This could be because these small risk factor changes were not maintained in the long term. Alternatively, the small reductions in risk factors may be caused by biases in some of the studies. The methods of attempting behaviour change in the general population are limited and do not appear to be effective. Different approaches to behaviour change are needed and should be tested empirically before being widely promoted, particularly in developing countries where cardiovascular disease rates are rising. Further trials may be warranted. —Cochrane 2011



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