Researchers have processed data from a long-running study to show that the presence or absence of heart disease risk factors in middle age predicts remaining life expectancy. Those with no risk factors live a somewhat longer, on average. It is interesting to note that only a small portion of the population are free from all risk factors at this stage in life, and that is largely the result of poor lifestyle choices leading to excess fat tissue and vascular decline. In an age of rapid progress in biotechnology, with effective treatments for the causes of aging on the horizon, it makes sense to avoid sabotaging your own health in this way. A few years might make the difference between living to benefit from the first rejuvenation therapies, or missing that boat entirely.

People with no major heart disease risk factors in middle age stay healthy and live longer, according to a 40-year study. Compared to those who had two or more high risk factors in middle age, those who reached age 65 without a chronic illness lived an average 3.9 years longer and survived 4.5 years longer before developing a chronic illness, researchers found. They also spent 22 percent fewer of their senior years with a chronic illness – 39 percent compared to 50 percent – and saved almost $18,000 in Medicare costs.

Researchers examined data from the Chicago Health Association study, which included initial health assessments in the late 1960s/early 1970s and has followed participants on an ongoing basis using Medicare health records. Researchers determined how many participants had favorable factors such as non-smokers, free of diabetes, normal weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels versus those with elevated risk factors or high risk factors. 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.

“We need to think about cardiovascular health at all stages of life. The small proportion of participants with favorable levels in their 40s is a call for all of us to maintain or adopt healthy lifestyles earlier in life. But risk factors and their effects accumulate over time, so even if you have risks it’s never too late to reduce their impact on your later health by exercising, eating right, and treating your high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.” The data is even more grim than a 2011-12 national survey suggesting only 8.9 percent of U.S. adults age 40-59 had five or more “ideal” health factors.


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