While most men and women in their 40s acknowledge that maintaining a low cardiovascular disease risk profile may associate with better health outcomes in older age, few middle-aged adults actually attain such a profile.

Kiang Liu, from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (Illinois, USA), and colleagues analyzed data collected over a 20 year period, from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study, which began in 1985 with 3,154 subjects, ages 18 to 30 years at the time. In the first year of the study, when the average age of participants was 24 years, nearly 44 percent had low cardiovascular disease risk profile. Twenty years later overall, only 24.5 percent remained in that profile category: the researchers observed that these subjects maintained five healthy lifestyle factors from young adulthood, including — lean body mass index (BMI), modest alcohol intake (if any), no smoking, healthy diet, and routine physical activity. The study authors urge that: “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout young adulthood is strongly associated with a low cardiovascular disease risk profile in middle age.”

[Kiang Liu, Martha L. Daviglus, Catherine M. Loria, Laura A. Colangelo, Bonnie Spring, Arlen C. Moller, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones. “Healthy Lifestyle Through Young Adulthood and the Presence of Low Cardiovascular Disease Risk Profile in Middle Age: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) Study.” Circulation. 2012;125:996–1004, February 28, 2012.]