People who adhere strongly to a set of cardiovascular health metrics may live close to a decade longer than those who don’t, new research suggests.
The study, published Monday in Circulation, found that people with high scores for cardiovascular health lived an average of nine years longer than those with the lowest scores. The scores measure adherence to a set of lifestyle behaviors and health factors developed by the American Heart Association known as Life’s Essential 8.
These measures encourage not using tobacco products, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling weight, and controlling blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels. A previous study found that adults with high adherence to these metrics lived longer without chronic disease than those with low scores.
Dr. Lu Qi, professor of epidemiology and director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center in New Orleans, said the new findings provide evidence that “you can change your lifestyle to live longer.”
Qi and his colleagues analyzed data from 23,003 adults who participated in the 2005-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, linking it to data from the National Death Index as of December 31, 2019. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 79 years and were followed Average of 7.8 years.
Using a 100-point scale, researchers determined whether participants had a low (score of 50 to 79), moderate (50 to 79) or high (80 or higher) cardiovascular health scores for each of the eight components. They also calculated an overall cardiovascular health score.
Those with the highest scores at age 50 had an average life expectancy of 8.9 years longer than those with the lowest scores. Among the individual factors, tobacco use, sleep, physical activity and blood glucose levels have the greatest impact on life expectancy.
Those who never smoked lived 7.4 years longer than those who smoked the most. Those who slept the recommended seven to nine hours per night lived five years longer than those who slept too much or not enough. Those who were most physically active lived 4.6 years longer than those who were least active. And those who scored higher for maintaining blood glucose control lived 4.9 years longer than those with poorer blood glucose control.
“This shows us how important an overall assessment of one’s cardiovascular health based on these eight factors is,” said Nathan Wang, professor and director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program in the Department of Cardiology at the University of California, Irvine. . “It’s not just one or two things.”
About 42% of the gain in life expectancy is attributable to fewer cardiovascular-related deaths.
But that means about 58% of the life gained from having a good cardiovascular health profile was unrelated to cardiovascular disease, said Wong, who was not involved in the study. “This suggests that the effect of maintaining good cardiovascular health extends to other causes of death.”
Wong said the findings should motivate people to better understand their own cardiovascular health risks through annual health exams and through the use of online tools, such as the AHA’s My Life Check, which can provide a personalized cardiovascular health score based on the 8 essentials of life. Consumers can get a better understanding of their cardiovascular health from this type of assessment and what they can do to improve their cardiovascular health risk,” he said.
While Life’s Essential 8 includes many key metrics of cardiovascular health, Wong says, future research should look at how much other factors may play a role as well.
“Information on psychological factors, such as stress and depression, as well as social determinants of health, such as access to health care, may also play an important role and may alter the impact on key cardiovascular health metrics, cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular outcomes,” she said. “Since the study looked exclusively at mortality, effects on non-fatal cardiovascular outcomes should also be examined, given their significant impact on health care utilization.”