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 found.
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for U.S. adults.
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 said.
"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 said.
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
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