Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: What's after age 50?

Heart Beat

What's after age 50?

Oh, to be 50 again — and this time without high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bad genes, or other heart disease risks.

According to the Framingham Heart Study's crystal ball, heart-healthy 50-year-olds see in their futures little heart disease and longer lives than their counterparts with high blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors. Framingham researchers tracked the health of almost 8,000 men and women free of heart disease at age 50 to their deaths or age 95. In the small group of participants who didn't smoke, weren't overweight, and didn't have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, less than 10% developed heart disease by age 75, and they lived 8–11 years longer than their less healthy counterparts. Diabetes was the single biggest risk factor for developing heart disease — 67% of men and 57% of women with diabetes at age 50 had heart disease by age 75.

Whether 50 is ahead of you or in your rearview mirror, any healthful lifestyle choices you can make to protect your heart — getting more exercise, watching your weight, eating wisely, and controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar — will pay off handsomely down the road.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »