HealthDay News — Individuals with optimal cardiovascular health in middle age live an average of 4 years longer than their peers who have at least 2 risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and almost 5 years longer free of chronic disease, according to a study published in Circulation.

The results are based on 25,804 Chicago adults whose health had been tracked since the late 1960s and early 1970s. All were at least 65 years old by 2010. At the study’s outset, only 6% were in optimal cardiovascular health: healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, normal-weight, nonsmokers, and free of diabetes. Over three-quarters of the study group had at least 1 major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Overall, the small group of people who showed all favorable factors aged more successfully, the researchers found. When the healthier people did experience a cardiovascular event, it was 7 years later, on average, compared with people who’d had 2 or more risk factors back in middle age. The people with optimal heart health also spent a greater part of their later years free of major diseases — including cancer, kidney disease, chronic lung disease, and dementia. That, in turn, translated into lower Medicare costs.

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“These findings provide strong support for prevention efforts earlier in life aimed at preserving cardiovascular health and reducing the burden of disease in older ages,” the researchers write.

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Allen NB, Zhao L, Liu L, et al. Favorable cardiovascular health, compression of morbidity, and healthcare costs: forty-year follow-up of the CHA study (Chicago Heart association detection project in industry). Circulation. 2017 May 2;135(18):1693-1701. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.116.026252.