The risk of heart failure at age 40 years is approximately 1 in 5.

Here are 6 steps to improving your odds, according to this study by researchers in Boston.

First, the details.

  • Data from 20,900 adult men who were apparently healthy at the start of the Physicians’ Health Study I were reviewed.
  • 6 modifiable lifestyle factors were considered.
    • Body weight
    • Smoking
    • Exercise
    • Alcohol intake
    • Eating breakfast cereals
    • Easting fruits and vegetables
  • The risk of heart failure was measured.

And, the results.

  • Over about 22 years, 1200 men developed heart failure.
  • Overall, the risk of heart failure was 14% at age 40 years and remained constant through age 70 years.
  • By 80 years of age the risk was 11%.
  • The risk of heart failure was higher in men with high blood pressure than in those without hypertension.
  • The 6 healthy lifestyle habits (normal body weight, not smoking, regular exercise, moderate alcohol intake, consumption of breakfast cereals, and consumption of fruits and vegetables) were individually and jointly associated with a lower risk of heart failure.
  • The highest risk of heart failure was in men who had none of the 6 lifestyle factors (21%).
  • The lowest risk of heart failure was in men adhering to at least 4 factors (10%).

The bottom line?
Adherence to healthy lifestyle factors is associated with a lower lifetime risk of heart failure, according to these authors.

Others have made similar recommendations — most often diet and exercise. The 2007 guidelines for preventing cardiovascular disease in women from the American Heart Association are listed here.

The American Heart Association makes similar recommendations to prevent heart disease in people with diabetes.

And, the benefits extend beyond preventing heart disease. In this study in China, diet and exercise delayed the onset of diabetes with impaired glucose tolerance.

7/22/09 09:28 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.