Health experts have found that keeping fit and healthy in middle age is key to slashing the risk of heart problems later in life.
Keeping blood pressure low, maintaining a healthy weight and remaining clear of diabetes between the age of 45 and 55 reduces the risk of heart failure by 86 per cent for their remaining life, a study suggests.
The debilitating condition, in which the heart struggles to pump blood around the body, often leaves people bedbound and unable to walk far, and they are usually breathless, even when resting.
It is already the leading cause of hospitalisation among over-65s in Britain – and experts predict the number of elderly people with the condition will triple by 2060 in that country.
But the new study, led by Northwestern University in Chicago, reveals that the condition can be prevented with a change in lifestyle earlier in a person’s life.
Study leader Dr John Wilkins said: ‘This study adds to the understanding of how individual and aggregate risk factor levels, specifically in middle age, affect incident heart failure risk over the remaining lifespan.
‘These findings help reframe the heart failure prevention discussion by quantifying how the prevention of the development of these risk factors can lengthen healthy and overall survival and could vastly reduce the population burden of heart failure.’
Doctors have been warning of the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle for years, yet the researchers, who tracked more than 40,000 people, found at the age of 45 only 53 per cent of participants were free of all three risk factors. And at the age of 55, only 44 per cent were still free of the risk factors.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology publication Heart Failure, reveal people who were free of diabetes, had a healthy body mass index, and had normal blood pressure at both 45 and 55 were had a substantially lower risk for heart failure.
According to the results, men without any of the three risk factors lived an average of 10.6 years longer free of heart failure, while women lived an average of 14.9 years longer without heart failure.
Dr Christopher O’Connor, editor-in-chief of JACC: Heart Failure, said: ‘As the incidence of heart failure is increasing, it is important that we accelerate the research effort on the prevention of heart failure.’
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