Expected gains in life expectancy from various coronary heart disease risk factor modifications

J. Tsevat, M. C. Weinstein, L. W. Williams, A. N.A. Tosteson, L. Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

164 Scopus citations


Background. Despite much evidence that modifying risk factors for coronary heart disease can decrease morbidity and mortality, little is known about the impact of risk-factor modification on life expectancy. Methods and Results. We used the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, a state-transition computer simulation of the US population, to forecast potential gains in life expectancy from risk-factor modification for the cohort of Americans turning age 35 in 1990. Among 35-year-old men, we projected that the population-wide increase in life expectancy would be about 1.1 years from strict blood pressure control, 0.8 years from smoking cessation, 0.7 years from reduction of serum cholesterol to 200 mg/dl, and about 0.6 years from weight loss to ideal body weight. For women, reducing cholesterol to 200 mg/dl would have the greatest estimated impact-a gain of 0.8 years-whereas smoking cessation, blood pressure control, or weight loss would yield population-wide gains of 0.7, 0.4, and 0.4 years, respectively. Gains for 35-year-old individuals having a given risk factor are greater. We estimate that, on average, male smokers would gain 2.3 years from quitting smoking; males with hypertension would gain 1.1-5.3 years from reducing their diastolic blood pressure to 88 mm Hg; men with serum cholesterol levels exceeding 200 mg/dl would gain 0.5-4.2 years from lowering their serum cholesterol level to 200 mg/dl; and overweight men would gain an average of 0.7-1.7 years from achieving ideal body weight. Corresponding projected gains for at-risk women are 2.8 years from quitting smoking, 0.9-5.7 years from lowering blood pressure, 0.4-6.3 years from decreasing serum cholesterol, and 0.5-1.1 years from losing weight. Eliminating coronary heart disease mortality is estimated to extend the average life expectancy of a 35-year-old man by 3.1 years and a 35-yar-old woman by 3.3 years. Conclusions. Population-wide gains in life expectancy from single risk-factor modifications are modest, but gains to individuals at risk can be more substantial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1194-1201
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Coronary heart disease
  • Intervention
  • Life expectancy
  • Risk factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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