A new Northwestern University study suggests that people who don’t develop the three conditions from 45 to 55 years old end up with an 86 per cent lower risk of heart failure for the rest of their lives. They go on to live longer, free of the complicated and often misunderstood condition, they say.
“These findings help reframe the heart failure prevention discussion by quantifying how the prevention of the development of these risk factors can lengthen healthy and overall survival and could vastly reduce the population burden of heart failure,” the study’s lead author, Dr. John Wilkins, said.
READ MORE: Heart failure rates rising in Canada
Wilkins’ research team noted that heart failure rates are increasing – now’s the time to speed up research efforts on preventing the condition.
For his research, Wilkins and his team zeroed in on data samples from communities across the U.S. Those studied were 45 and 55 years old – up to 53 per cent of the group didn’t have hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
At a follow up for 45 year olds, there were about 1,677 cases of heart failure out of 516,537 people. For 55 year olds, about 2,976 people had heart failure out of more than half a million people.
People without diabetes, hypertension and obesity had a “substantially lower” risk for heart failure. This pattern existed across the board – in men, women and all ethnic backgrounds studied.
Those without diabetes fared the best, too: they lived on average of about 8.6 to 10.6 years longer.
Men who were 45 and didn’t have any of the three conditions lived an average of 10.6 years longer free of heart failure. Women lived nearly 15 years longer without heart failure.
Earlier this year, Heart and Stroke focused its efforts on raising awareness of heart failure. More Canadians are living with heart disease, so heart failure rates are steadily rising, it warned in a February report.
“People understand heart attack and stroke, but they don’t know what heart failure is. They often get it confused with cardiac arrest, which means the heart stops beating entirely. Heart failure is a syndrome we see in patients that reflects a damaged heart that’s unable to pump blood effectively,” Dr. Paul Fedak, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Calgary and a Heart and Stroke researcher, told Global News.
“Most patients with heart failure have a very poor prognosis. It’s worse than many cancers so it’s a very serious diagnosis and a huge burden on our health-care system,” Fedak warned.
Fedak calls heart failure a “revolving door condition” because it can be triggered by a gamut of issues: multiple heart attacks or heart disease could damage the organ, infections in the heart valve, dealing with high blood pressure, diabetes, or genetics, electrical issues in pumping blood and even the aging process can lead to the onset of heart failure.
Heart failure is when your heart’s shape and function are altered, making it difficult for the heart to adequately pump blood through your body.
Patients end up with:
Fluid accumulating in their bodies.
They gain weight.
They feel bloated and puffy.
Their lungs get “wet” with their breathing laboured.
They’re lethargic and have trouble carrying out simple tasks.
Ultimately, heart failure patients end up in hospital for extensive treatment for about one to two weeks for a “tune up,” as Fedak calls it. But doctors can’t cure the problem, so patients are hospitalized again months later.