Heart Health

Living longer, free of heart disease?

Ask the doctor

By , Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

photo of a senior couple walking along a shoreline on a sunny day

Q. As a 78-year-old male, I have an estimated life expectancy of another nine years. Like most people my age, I would like to live longer and stronger. Because the CDC estimates that about a third of guys like me will die of heart disease, it seems that taking special care of my cardiovascular health could extend the quality and length of my life. But will I just be transferring my risk to other diseases that will end my life in roughly the same time frame?

A. Thanks largely to advances in medical care — especially in the field of cardiology — the average life expectancy in the United States rose dramatically over the past few decades. In 1960, the average person lived 70 years, but by 2019, that number had risen to 79. Unfortunately, this upward trend slowed in recent years and the number began falling gradually, due to the rise in rates of diabetes and obesity, both of which are leading contributors to poor cardiovascular health. The dramatic death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic also reduced average life expectancy, which fell to 76 years in 2021.

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About the Author

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD


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