Healthy Lifestyle Choices Reduce Heart Failure Risk
Heart failure occurs in an average 550,000 people each year in the United States. The lifetime risk of heart failure - the risk of ever developing heart failure during one’s remaining lifetime before dying from other causes - at 40 years of age is approximately one in five. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that men who followed a number of healthy lifestyle factors may reduce their risk of heart failure to one in ten. This research appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Previous relationships between various lifestyle factors and predictors of heart failure have been established,” said Luc Djousse, MD, ScD, MPH, of the Department of Medicine at BWH, and lead study author. “But little was known about the joint contribution of these factors on the reduction of lifetime risk of heart failure.”
In a study of 20,900 healthy men from the Physicians’ Health Study I, researchers found that healthy men who had normal body weight, never smoked, got regular exercise, drank alcohol in moderation, and consumed breakfast cereal and fruits and vegetables lowered their lifetime risk of heart failure. A greater number of healthy lifestyle factors was associated with an increasingly dimished lifetime risk of heart failure, compared to men adhering to none of the six measured factors at highest lifetime risk, and those adhering to four or more at lowest lifetime risk.
During the follow-up more than 22 years after the study began, 1200 men had developed heart failure, and the overall risk of heart failure for the entire group was about one in seven for ages 40 years through age 70 years, with the risk dropping once men reached aged 80. Lifetime risk of heart failure was also found to be higher in men with hypertension than in those without hypertension.
“We know that hypertension is a contributing risk factor for heart failure,” said Dr. Djousse. “However, we found that adhering to the specific lifestyle factors such as healthy body weight, not smoking, and regular exercise was associated with a lower lifetime risk of heart failure in the overall population and in men with hypertension, as well as those without hypertension.”
“By identifying a number of modifiable lifestyle factors, we can arm patients and physicians with targeted habits to help reduce the occurence of heart disease,” said Dr. Djousse, noting the need for additional investigation into the effects of these factors on other populations.