Despite these changes in risk factors for heart disease, men who had three heart risk factors in middle age had a threefold higher risk of dying from heart disease and a twofold increased risk of dying from other causes, compared with men with none of these risk factors, Clarke's team found.
In fact, men who had all three risk factors at the time they entered the study lived 10 years less than men with none of the risk factors. Life expectancy after 50 was an additional 23.7 years for men with three risk factors, compared with 33.3 years for men without the risk factors, the researchers found.
When Clarke's group evaluated the men using a risk score that took into account smoking, diabetes, employment, blood pressure, cholesterol and body-mass index. Men in the highest (worst) five percent of this risk score cut their life expediency by 15 years from age 50, compared with men with the lowest risk score (20.2 vs. 35.4 years).
"Cardiovascular risk factors are well-documented to result in premature cardiovascular events and cardiovascular deaths," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "This study quantifies how the presence or absence of certain cardiovascular risk factors in middle age influences life span."
Three modifiable risk factors -- smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- seemed most dangerous, Fonarow noted.
"Individuals who choose to not treat and control these major cardiovascular risk factors should recognize they may be giving up, on average, as much as 10 to 15 years of life by doing so," he said. "More needs to be done to identify, treat and control major cardiovascular risk factors to reduce the global burden of cardiovascular events and premature cardiovascular deaths."
While this study was conducted in England, the problem is equally prevalent in the United States.
For example, a recen
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