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Middle-Age Heart Risk Factors Shorten Men’s Lives

Although death from heart disease has been declining, in part due to better control of cardiovascular risk factors and better care, a study by British researchers looks at death from heart disease in terms of life expectancy.

The researchers collected data on nearly 19,000 men ranging from 49 to 69 years of age. The men were first evaluated between 1967-1970.  At the start of the study, the men completed a questionnaire that included questions about their medical history, smoking, employment and marital status. In addition, height, weight, blood pressure, lung function, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were also measured.

After about 28 years of follow-up, 7,044 surviving men were examined again in 1997.  When the study began, 42 percent of the men smoked, 39 percent had high blood pressure and 51 percent had high cholesterol. By 1997, about two-thirds had stopped smoking and their blood pressure and cholesterol levels had also dropped, the researchers noted.

Despite these changes in risk factors for heart disease, men who had three heart risk factors in middle age had a threefold higher risk of dying from heart disease and a twofold increased risk of dying from other causes, compared with men with none of these risk factors, the study found.

Men who had all three risk factors at the time they entered the study lived 10 years less than men with none of the risk factors. Life expectancy after 50 was an additional 23.7 years for men with three risk factors, compared with 33.3 years for men without the risk factors, the researchers found.

Individuals who choose to not treat and control these major cardiovascular risk factors should recognize they may be giving up, on average, as much as 10 to 15 years of life by doing so, te research team reported.  The study was published in the Sept. 18 online edition of the British Medical Journal,

SOURCES: Robert Clarke, M.D., reader in epidemiology, University of Oxford, UK; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 18, 2009, British Medical Journal

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