July 7, 2008 -- Living longer, with a healthier heart, boils down to a few steps, and if everyone got on the bandwagon, it could prevent more than 27 million heart attacks and about 10 million strokes over the next 30 years.
Here are those steps:
- Quit smoking
- Get your BMI ( body mass index) out of the obese range
- Get your LDL ("bad") cholesterol under control
- Get your blood pressure into the normal range
- Get your blood sugar under control, especially if you have diabetes
- Take aspirin if your doctor tells you to because of heart disease risk
If you're like 78% of U.S. adults aged 20-80, you fall short of at least one of those goals.
If everyone who's got room for improvement made those improvements and met all of the benchmarks, they would live 1.3 years longer, on average, cutting heart attacks by 63% and stroke by 31% over the next 30 years, the researchers estimate.
But let's say everyone makes some progress but doesn't quite meet all of the goals. That would still make a real dent in cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of U.S. men and women, according to the study.
The study, published in the advance online edition of Circulation, is based on national health studies conducted from 1998 to 2004.
Are medications the answer? If everyone relied on prescription drugs, it could be a hefty tab. But lifestyle changes -- such as a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle -- are a big part of heart health. The researchers didn't crunch the numbers to see how many people could meet most of the goals through lifestyle change alone.