Risk Factors in Middle Age Linked to More Heart Disease

Article excerpt

Although a person's risk of heart disease might be low during the next five to 10 years, the lifetime risk could still be very high. Finding from a recent study could have implications for both clinical practice and public health policy. Dr. Jarett Berry, lead author and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said: "The current approach to heart disease prevention focuses on only short-term risks, which can give a false sense of security, particularly to individuals in their 40's and 50's. Early life decisions we make can have a significant impact on the rest of our lives - and hearthealthy choices are no different. The risk factors we develop in younger and middle ages are going to determine our heart disease risk across our lifetime."

Although medical experts have long known that the presence of risk factors was a predictor of heart disease across time, gender, and race, Dr. Berry noted that the concept of lifetime risk represents an important change in how individuals and their physicians will approach heart disease risk and prevention.

"If we want to reduce cardiovascular disease, we need to prevent the development of risk factors in the first place," he said. "What determines your heart disease risk when you are 70 or 80 is what your risk factors are when you're 40."

Examining the results of longitudinal studies over the past 50 years, investigators found that people with two or more major risk factors in middle age had dramatically higher lifetime risks for cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and stroke across the life span. Similar trends were observed across all race and age groups. …