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Even Fit Boomers Have Heart Disease Risk

If you're 45 and fit - meaning you don't smoke and don't have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol - don't feel too smug. You still have a one in three chance of developing heart problems, including stroke, by the time you're in your 80s or 90s, new research finds.

On the other hand, you may live up to 14 years longer free of heart ailments than do those who are not so fit.

For boomers who are less healthy, your lifetime risk for heart disease is 60 percent if you're a man, 55 percent if you're a woman.

Those are among the findings of an analysis of five major studies involving nearly 50,000 adults ages 45 and older who were followed for up to 50 years. The federally funded study was published online Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented as part of the American Heart Association's scientific meeting this week in Los Angeles.

The research, led by John Wilkins, M.D., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, did find that the healthiest 45- and 55-year-olds lived more years without heart problems than did those with at least two risk factors. Healthy 55-year-olds, for example, had seven more years free of heart disease than did their less healthy peers, the Associated Press reported.

Even so, a man with no risk factors at age 55 still had a more than 40 percent risk of having cardiac disease by age 85. A healthy 55-year-old woman had a 30 percent chance.

The researchers wrote that the lifetime risk for heart disease among older adults remains high regardless of age, meaning that just because you've gotten into your 60s or 70s without heart disease, this doesn't mean you won't develop problems.

But Stacey Rosen, M.D., with Women's Health Clinical Services of the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y., told HealthDay News that she prefers to view the research in a "glass is half full" way. Although the study "does conclude that the lifetime risk for heart attack, heart failure and stroke remains high," even for those with no risk factors, it also shows that people who are healthy at 50 have a significantly longer time frame before symptoms of heart disease may develop, she said.

Other heart health research announced this week:

Multivitamins don't affect cardiac risk in older men. Multivitamins might help slightly lower the risk for cancer in older men, as a previous study found, but they don't seem to have any effect on halting cardiovascular disease, according to a large, new Harvard study, the Los Angeles Times reported. Researchers wrote that "after more than a decade of daily multivitamin use among middle-aged and older men," the supplement did not reduce major cardiovascular events, including stroke, cardiovascular death, congestive heart failure or angina.

Fish oil supplement won't prevent irregular heartbeat after surgery. Fish oil capsules with omega-3 fatty acids taken before and after cardiac surgery do not prevent the irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, according to a major new international study reported by Bloomberg News. Trial participants given the supplements, which doctors recommend for some heart patients, were just as likely to develop atrial fibrillation after surgery as those who didn't take them, the study showed. Atrial fibrillation, a flutter of the heart that can cause blood clots and strokes, occurs in one in three people after a heart operation.

Photo: 21limited via flickr

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