People with no major heart disease risk factors in middle age live longer and stay healthy far longer than others, according to a 40-year study reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
“Good cardiovascular health in middle age delays the onset of many types of disease so that people live longer and spend a much smaller proportion of their lives with chronic illness,” said lead author Dr. Allen.
In the first study to analyze the impact of cardiovascular health in middle age on the duration of illness later in life, researchers examined data from the Chicago Health Association study.
Researchers determined how many participants had favorable factors: non-smokers, free of diabetes and normal weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels; versus those with elevated risk factors or high risk factors.
Comparing those who had two or more high-risk factors in middle age among the 17,939 participants who reached age 65 without a chronic illness, researchers found that those with all favorable factors:
· lived an average of 3.9 years longer;
· survived 4.5 years longer before developing a chronic illness;
· spent 22 percent fewer of their senior years with a chronic illness (39 percent vs. 50 percent); and
· saved almost $18,000 in Medicare costs.
“Health professionals need to let young adults know that maintaining or adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle makes it more likely that you’ll live longer and still be healthy enough to do the things you love to do when you’re older,” Allen said.
Looking solely at heart disease in 18,714 participants who reached age 65 without having a heart attack, stroke or congestive heart failure, those with all favorable risk factors:
· lived 6.9 years longer without heart disease; and
· spent 46.5 percent fewer of their senior years with heart disease.
Allen noted that at the start of the study, when their average age was 44, only 5.6 percent of participants had all favorable factors.
That data is even more grim than a 2011-2012 national survey suggesting only 8.9 percent of U.S. adults age 40-59 had five or more “ideal” health factors, according to The American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2017 Update.
The American Heart Association created My Life Check ® to educate the public on improving health by aiming to achieve seven health measures called Life’s Simple 7.
It’s a composite measure of seven modifiable heart-healthy factors: cigarette smoking, physical activity, diet, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.