Heart failure risks start young and so should prevention, according to new research

A person has their blood pressure taken in a clinical setting.

Heart failure is relatively uncommon among younger adults, but associated risks – like smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes – can have a profound impact, according to a study in the BMJ. Researchers reviewed data from 24,675 adults who participated in one of three longitudinal cardiovascular health studies. They categorized adults into four age groups: young (younger than age 55), middle aged (ages 55-64), old (ages 65-74), and elder (ages 75 and older).  

They found young adults were the least likely to develop heart failure, but any cardiovascular-related risks had a notable influence on their risk. For example, 138 out of 11,599 young adults, 1%, developed heart failure compared to 412 out of 2,299, 18%, of elder adults. However, high blood pressure correlated with a three times greater risk for heart failure among younger adults compared to a 1.4 times greater risk for adults ages 75 and older. Obesity, diabetes, and smoking were also associated with greater heart failure risks among younger study participants compared to older adults. These types of cardiovascular risks were associated with 75% of heart failure incidents in younger adults compared to 53% of heart failure incidents in elders 

The findings highlight the importance of preventive efforts to reduce the risk of heart failure at every age and across the adult life course, the researchers concluded. The study was partially supported by the NHLBI. 

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