Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Will you get heart disease?

The number of cardiovascular risk factors people have at age 50 can have a dramatic impact on their life expectancy, researchers are reporting.

The findings, based on a large, long-running U.S. study, suggest that 50-year-olds who are free of major risk factors are unlikely to suffer coronary heart disease or stroke in their lifetime.

Moreover, 50-year-olds without cardiovascular risk factors could expect to live about a decade longer than their peers with multiple risk factors.

Among men who were free of risk factors at age 50, only 5 percent developed atherosclerosis-related heart disease or stroke by the age of 95. That compared with 69 percent of men who had two or more risk factors at age 50.

The difference was substantial among women as well - 8 percent, versus 50 percent.

These low-risk 50-year-olds tended to live into their 90s. That meant that they were not overweight, did not smoke, and did not have diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Few people in the current study had "optimal risk factor levels" at the age of 50 -- just 3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women.

“It sounds trite, but physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight could make all the difference."

Your prescription:

  • 30-60 minutes of physical activity on most days
  • don't smoke
  • lose weight, especially abdominal fat. An unhealthy waist circumference is above 35 inches (women), or above 40 inches (men).
  • control high blood pressure. (less than 140/90, preferably less than 120/80)
  • lower cholesterol (preferably LDL less than 100)
  • become non-diabetic

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