Here is a sobering slice of health news: your odds of suffering a heart attack or a stroke at some point in your life are worse than you think. A brand new and important study uncovers a potentially false sense of security that a lot of us share. It’s time to wake up and follow the best health advice in this situation: watch your cholesterol and blood pressure.
New research shows that even a young or middle-aged adult who is at low risk may be at very high risk in the long term. That is, if he or she has only one or two major risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking or having diabetes. Participants had their levels checked at 45, 55, 65 and 75 years of age.
What’s happening here is they are looking beyond the next 10 years of someone’s life. Because, if we go beyond that, we find a much greater risk that people will have a serious cardiovascular “event.” And to prevent that, you can’t begin early enough.
The best profile for preventing heart disease and stroke was this: cholesterol level under 180 milligrams per deciliter; untreated blood pressure of about 120 over 80; being a nonsmoker; and not having diabetes.
Here are the study’s key findings:
— Men who are 45 and have no risk factors (as shown in the above paragraph) have a 1.4% risk of having a heart attack or stroke or suffering other form of death from heart disease. That risk rose to 50% if they had two or more risk factors.
— The same situation for 45-year-old women is 4.1% and nearly 31%, respectively.
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This study highlights how important a healthy diet, exercise, and not smoking are for one’s future. Anyone can reduce his or her risk for heart disease and stroke by taking charge of these for the better. Having the full package, being good on all four risk factors described earlier, is the ultimate step in prevention.
The study found that even a small increase in one risk factor — like slightly elevated cholesterol — significantly bumps up a person’s lifetime risk. It doesn’t seem fair, but that is what it takes to stay alive in the human body governed by the heart.