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Fitness is not the only indicator of heart health, study suggests

November 15, 2012

Older adults focused on healthy aging may think being in good shape is enough to prevent heart problems, but a new study suggests they may still be at risk. Research presented at the American Heart Association conference suggests that even fit adults have a one in three chance of experiencing heart problems or a stroke, although they may encounter them years later than those in worse shape.

The findings were based on an analysis of five previously conducted trials involving more than 50,000 individuals who were 45 or older. Scientists found that even people who followed a healthy lifestyle for seniors, taking steps such as avoiding smoking and increasing an exercise regimen, were still somewhat likely to encounter cardiovascular issues as they get older.

The results are important for a number of reasons. For starters, they highlight the fact that seniors should focus on a well-rounded approach to healthy aging that includes both exercise and a smart diet. It also brings into focus the significant threat heart disease poses.

"[It is] a wake-up call that this disease is very prevalent in the United States and even if you're doing a good job, you're not immune," Dr. Vincent Bufalino, a spokesman for the American Heart Association, told The Associated Press.

The findings weren't all bad news, however. Researchers determined that even though fit adults are still at risk for heart disease, they will likely develop it about seven years later than their less fit peers.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, about 600,000 people die every year due to the condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that comes out to about one in every four deaths.