'Healthy' Hearts May Still Carry Cardiovascular Disease Risk

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(Image credit: Heart rate via Shutterstock)

Even middle-age adults who have seemingly "optimal" heart health may be at risk for heart disease later in life, a new study says.

In the study, about four in 10 men and three in 10 women who had normal blood pressure and cholesterol, did not smoke and did not have diabetes at age 55 developed some type of cardiovascular disease later in life.

The findings highlight "the large public health burden" of cardiovascular disease, the researchers said.

However, those with optimal heart health in middle age tended to live more years of their life free of cardiovascular disease. On average, men and women with optimal heart health at age 45 developed cardiovascular disease between eight and 14 years later than those who had at least two risk factors for heart disease at age 45.

Previous studies have estimated the lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease for middle-age adults, but have generally not included heart failure (when the heart does not pump enough blood to the rest of the body) or hemorrhagic stroke (a stroke caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain) as a type of cardiovascular disease.

The new study aimed to fill this gap. The researchers analyzed information from population studies, including the Framingham Heart Study, which was conducted between 1964 and 2008. Participants did not have cardiovascular disease at the study's start.

Between 2 and 8 percent of participants, depending on the age group considered, were in optimal heart health. In contrast, more than half of participants at any age had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Overall, about 60 percent of men and 56 percent of women would develop cardiovascular disease at some point after age 55, the study found. For those who were in optimal heart health at age 55, 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women would develop the disease.

The study will be published Nov. 7 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pass it on: The lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease for middle-age adults in good heart health is more than 30 percent.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to Live Science. Follow MyHealthNewsDaily on Twitter @MyHealth_MHND.  We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Live Science Staff
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