Optimal Heart Health Starts Early: Study01/25/12
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- People who reach midlife
without developing high blood pressure, diabetes or other risk
factors for cardiovascular disease are much less likely to have a
heart attack or stroke by age 80 than their less healthy peers, a
new study suggests.
"If you make it to middle age with an optimal profile, it's really like the fountain of youth for your heart," said lead researcher Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Besides diabetes and hypertension, researchers looked at the
effects of two other cardiovascular risk factors -- high
cholesterol and smoking -- on long-term heart health. A
heart-healthy profile at midlife "essentially abolished your
remaining chance of developing any heart disease over your
remaining lifespan," Lloyd-Jones added. These lifestyle-related
factors mattered more than age, race or sex, the researchers
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for
The researchers found that a 45-year-old man with optimal levels
of those risk factors has a 1.4 percent chance of having a major
heart event or stroke during his remaining lifetime, Lloyd-Jones
"Contrast that with a 45-year-old man who has two or more major risk factors, his lifetime risk would be 49.5 percent," he said.
Similar numbers emerged for women, blacks and whites, he
But it's a
lifetime of healthy living that pays off, experts said.
"We need to do a better job of getting our children and young adults off to a healthy start so that more of them can make it into middle age with optimal risk factors," Lloyd-Jones said. "All of these risk factors are preventable, or at least modifiable, by lifestyle."
If you have some of these risk factors, it is critically
important to get with a doctor and control them, and that's likely
to require medication and lifestyle change, Lloyd-Jones said.
But treatment only goes so far, he said. "It mitigates the risk,
but it never really puts the horse back in the barn. It's important
to get treated, but it's better to have never developed these risk
factors in the first place," he said.
The report was published in the Jan. 26 issue of the
New England Journal of Medicine.
For the study, Lloyd-Jones' team reviewed 18 studies that
included a total of more than 250,000 people aged 44, 55, 65 and
75. They were looking for patterns that may not have been part of
the original findings, but could lead to new conclusions.
Using the four cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers
estimated the lifetime risks of cardiovascular disease, heart
attack and stroke.
For individuals 55 years old having an optimal risk factor
profile -- low blood pressure and cholesterol levels, not smoking
and not diabetic -- the chance of having cardiovascular problems
through age 80 was 4.7 percent for men and 6.4 percent for
Those with two or more risk factors had a much higher risk of
cardiovascular disease -- about 30 percent for men and 21 percent
for women, the researchers found.
The risk for heart disease or heart attack was 3.6 percent for
men and less than 1 percent for women with optimal profiles,
compared to 37.5 percent and 18.3 percent, respectively, for those
with two or more risk factors, they noted.
For stroke, an optimal risk profile reduced risk to 2.3 percent
for men and 5.3 percent for women, compared with 8.3 percent for
men and 10.7 percent for women with two risk factors, the
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the
University of California, Los Angeles, and a spokesman for the
American Heart Association, said studies consistently demonstrate
that blood pressure, cholesterol level, smoking status and diabetes
status are key determinants of cardiovascular risk.
This new study also shows the lifetime cardiovascular risk is
similar for white and black patients, he said. Moreover, at every
age, more risk factors substantially increase the lifetime risk of
cardiovascular disease, he added.
"Every adult, no matter how young or old, should be aware of their cardiovascular risk profile and take proactive steps to achieve optimal cardiovascular health," Fonarow said.
A December report from the American Heart Association found that
more than two-thirds of U.S. adults and about one-third of children
are over the ideal body weight, and those extra layers of fat put a
major strain on their hearts.
For more information on heart-healthy living, visit the
American Heart Association.
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