Middle-aged adults without cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and obesity live up to 15 years longer without heart failure, according to a recent analysis of four large U.S. studies.
Published in JACC: Heart Failure, this study looked at the impact of key cardiovascular risk factors on the development of heart failure. Heart failure, which occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body, currently affects an estimated 5.7 million U.S. adults. This condition is especially common in older adults, as risk increases with age. Since half of people who develop heart failure die within 5 years of diagnosis, prevention is always the best strategy.
To help show how valuable prevention can be, researchers analyzed data from four large studies, including the Framingham Heart, Framingham Offspring, Chicago Heart Association Detection Project in Industry, and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities studies. Together, these studies included more than 43,000 U.S. adults that were free of heart failure at age 45 or 55. Researchers determined which participants had any of three cardiovascular risk factors—high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes—all of which are known to increase risk for heart failure. Participants were then followed for up to 50 years for key outcomes like heart failure and death.
Among nearly 20,000 participants aged 45 at the start of the study, a total of 1,677 heart failure events occurred during the follow-up period. However, men and women with none of the above risk factors had 73–85% lower risk of heart failure than those with all three risk factors. On average, adults aged 45 with no risk factors lived to age 80–83 without heart failure. Adults with no risk factors lived an additional 3–15 years longer free of heart failure than those with 1–3 risk factors.
Researchers also note that findings were similar for participants aged 55 at the start of the study.
Overall, findings confirm that avoiding high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes helps significantly delay or prevent the development of heart failure. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and addressing cardiovascular risk factors, patients can help add on more than a decade of healthy years later in life. If enough adults took steps to reduce their risk, authors note that it could help significantly reduce the impact of heart failure in the United States.