Good cardiovascular health at midlife may add 14 years

By Sheryl Kay • Published: February 20th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

We often think of midlife as a crisis period, a time when we might embrace an obscure lifestyle choice … perhaps even buy that red corvette we’ve always dreamed of.

But midlife is also a turning point in our health. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that even for the most healthy 55-year-old men and women, some type of cardiovascular disease is inevitable.

Still, the research shows that there is good news. Investigators looked at the health data of patients who were part of five separate National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute–funded community-based studies 45 years. All participants were free from cardiovascular disease when they began the studies, and several health conditions were taken into account, including blood pressure, total cholesterol levels, diabetes and smoking status, all of which could contribute to the risk of heart ailments.

Using this data, the researchers then calculated lifetime risk estimates of cardiovascular disease for the participants at age 45, and then every 10 years through age 95. Investigators looked at several forms of heart disease, including fatal and non-fatal coronary episodes, all forms of stroke, and congestive heart failure.

The findings revealed that the long-term threat for heart-related disease was strongly associated with risk factors present during midlife. In fact, on average, participants with optimal heart health at age 45 developed cardiovascular disease between eight and 14 years later than those who had at least two risk factors for heart disease at age 45, reinforcing the notion that keeping fit helps us age in more healthy ways.

So a happy heart could really lead to a longer life.