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Take Care of Your Heart Before and After Problems
Date:9/24/2007

Healthy blood pressure and weight can help avoid heart failure; rehab can aid recovery

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- People need to take care of their heart both before and after heart trouble starts, two new studies suggest.

In the first study, researchers said that to avoid heart failure when you're 70 or 80, you must begin by keeping your blood pressure and weight under control when you're 50.

"We tested the hypothesis that higher levels of blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) in midlife would be powerful determinants of heart failure risk in later life, and that the risk posed by preceding measurements would remain even after accounting for these risk factors measured later in life," said lead researcher Dr. Ramachandran S. Vasan.

"This is exactly what we found," added Vasan, a senior investigator with the Framingham Heart Study and a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

An increase of about 20 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure at age 50 was associated with a 36 percent higher risk of heart failure up to 20 years later. Every 2.2 pound increase in BMI (a ratio of weight to height) at age 50 was associated with a 6 percent increase in the risk of heart failure, Vasan said.

"The study highlights the importance of maintaining an ideal BMI and blood pressure over the life course of individuals," Vasan said.

For the study, Vasan's team collected data on 3,362 people who were part of the Framingham Heart Study who had routine examinations between 1969 and 1994. During follow-up, 518 people developed heart failure.

"The prevention of heart failure should begin early in life and should include screening for elevated blood pressure and BMI," Vasan said. "Failure to identify or treat such modifiable risk factors in early and mid-adulthood may result in the loss of opportunities to reduce the incidence of heart failure in later life
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