NEW ORLEANS — A healthy ticker can lead to a longer life by reducing the risk of diabetes, cancer, and dementia, new research reveals. Researchers at Tulane University say having a healthy heart displays a link to substantially longer life expectancy — free of cardiovascular disease and the world’s other three biggest killers.
As well as avoiding cardiovascular disease, having a healthy heart can help stave off cancer, dementia, and diabetes, according to the research. Eating healthily and getting plenty of exercise, as well as not smoking, maintaining normal weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels all contribute to a healthy heart.
Patients are more likely to develop at least one major illness if they did not manage these “simple rules,” the study finds. The results come from an analysis of 135,000 adults studied by the UK Biobank. This included individuals living in deprived areas.
“These findings support improvement in population health by promoting a high CVH level, which may also narrow health disparities associated with socioeconomic status,” writes corresponding author Dr. Lu Qi of Tulane University in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Average life expectancy has increased substantially in the past few decades in most industrialized countries thanks to quicker diagnoses of diseases and improved treatments.
“However, not all of the increased life expectancy is being spent in optimal health, especially among individuals with low socioeconomic status,” researchers explain.
Following Life’s Essential 8 can save your life
The team made their calculations using data on Life’s Essential 8 — a set of simple heart boosting rules such as eating healthily and getting plenty of exercise. The others are not smoking, maintaining normal weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, and getting plenty of sleep. Those who scored poorly were more likely to develop at least one major illness.
At the age of 50, estimated disease-free years were 21.5, 25.5, and 28.4 for men with low, moderate, and high CVH (cardiovascular health) levels, respectively. For women, the corresponding figures rose to 24.2, 30.5, and 33.6 respectively.
“Men with moderate or high heart health lived on average 4 or 6.9 longer years free of chronic disease, respectively, at age 50 years compared with men with low CVH levels,” Dr. Qi’s team continues. “The corresponding longer years lived free of disease for women were 6.3 or 9.4.”
“For participants with high CVH level, there was not a statistically significant difference in disease-free life expectancy between participants with low and other socioeconomic status.”
1 in 4 Americans deal with chronic health problems
More than a quarter (27.2%) of U.S. adults had multiple chronic conditions in 2018. By 2035, estimates predict that two-in-three U.K. adults will be living with these problems. They can lead to lower quality of life, premature mortality, and a great burden on health care costs.
“These results indicate a high CVH may not only prolong life span but also improve the quality of aging,” the study authors write. “Total life expectancy cannot be extended indefinitely. These findings have important implications for improvement of healthy aging.”
The heart pumps blood around the body all the time. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to all parts, helping tissues and bones work properly.
“In this cohort study, a high level of CVH was associated with longer life expectancy free of major chronic diseases and may contribute to narrowing socioeconomic health inequalities in both men and women,” Dr. Qi’s team concludes.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.