The three conditions you should avoid by middle age to greatly lower the chances of heart failure later

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Want to avoid heart failure as you age? A new study reveals you can dramatically lower the chances by avoiding high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity by middle age.

"These walls should almost be touching together or pushing together. This heart is barely beating," said Dr. John Miller, a cardiologist at North Kansas City Hospital, as he looked at an echocardiogram of a patient suffering from heart failure. North Kansas City Hospital recently became the first hospital in the area to receive full Heart Failure Accreditation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

The heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.

Dr. Miller said treatment for heart failure has improved markedly.

"But there's about six million people in the United States who have heart failure, and it really is a struggle. The mortality rate can be high if not treated properly," he added.

New research looks at prevention and finds avoiding high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity by the age of 45 to 55 dramatically lowers the chances of heart failure.

The study shows that someone like Brad Terry, who at age 51 has none of the three conditions, has as much as an 86 percent lower risk of heart failure for the remainder of life. That's compared to people who have the three conditions in middle age.

The exercise that Terry does five days a week at the North Kansas City YMCA is helping to prevent those three conditions. The study estimates just over half of Americans have avoided all three by age 45, and only 43 percent have by the time they're 55.

"I wouldn't have thought half the people my age dealt with those things. That's surprising," said Terry.

Dr. Miller said by moving and watching what you eat, you can avoid them and dramatically lower your chances of heart failure as you age.

Other, much less common factors in heart failure include viruses and heart defects. The study is in a Journal of the American College of Cardiology.