Background: Life expectancy is greater for people with favorable midlife cardiovascular risk profiles (ie, low risk). However, some speculate that increased longevity may lead to large numbers of ill, disabled, older persons with lower quality of life. Few data exist on this important issue. This study evaluates the relationship of midlife low-risk status to quality of life and illness in older age.
Methods: Cohort of middle-aged adults from the Chicago Heart Association Detection Project in Industry (2692 women and 3650 men; baseline ages, 36-64 years [average age, 73.2 years in 1996]) without baseline (1967-1973) major electrocardiographic abnormalities or history of diabetes or myocardial infarction. Quality of life (12-item Health Status Questionnaire [HSQ-12] on physical, mental, and social well-being) and self-reported diseases were assessed after 26 years of follow-up. Baseline risk strata included low risk (favorable blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels, no smoking, and no minor electrocardiographic abnormalities); 0 risk factors (ie, no high risk factors but >or=1 risk factors not at favorable levels); or any 1, any 2, or 3 or more of the following 4 risk factors: high blood pressure, high serum cholesterol level, smoking, and minor electrocardiographic abnormalities. The HSQ-12 scores and disease outcomes for low risk were compared with other strata.
Results: Adjusted scores for physical, mental, social functioning, and disease-free outcomes were highest for low-risk individuals and decreased significantly with number of risk factors (eg, 58% of low-risk women had excellent/very good health compared with 28% of women with >or=3 risk factors).
Conclusions: Favorable cardiovascular risk profile in middle age is associated with better quality of life and lower risk of diseases in older age. Moreover, the fewer the risk factors, the higher the quality of life.