The hidden signs of heart failure

It's a silent epidemic -- a deadly and irreversible condition that eventually kills half of everyone who has it.

Right now, tens of millions of Americans are in the earliest stages of this disease… and most of them don't even know it.

A new study finds that 60 percent of older adults are in the preclinical phases of heart failure.

There are no warning signs of preclinical heart failure, and there are no symptoms. It won't even be detected on any of the standard tests you'll get at a mainstream doctor's office.

But it's there -- and it could kill you in a heartbeat if it turns into the real deal.

The more serious form of preclinical heart failure is called stage B, and the new study finds it's especially common in older folks. Close to 40 percent of seniors between 65 and 75 years old are in stage B, along with 43 percent of folks 75 and up.

I know what you might be thinking.

If I can't see or feel it… and my own doc won't even test for it… how bad could it be?

Answer: Very bad, because the study also finds that folks with stage B preclinical heart failure have higher levels of cardiac stress biomarkers.

Cardiac stress won't just boost your risk of heart problems.

It'll boost your risk of death, even if you never suffer from heart failure.

Obviously, this is a condition you need to work like heck to avoid because heart failure means your ticker can no longer pump blood effectively.

If you're healthy, up to 70 percent of the blood in your heart gets pumped out with every beat.

But once it drops below 50 percent, you face problems. And when it falls below 40 percent -- when your heart pump is so weak that 60 percent of the blood inside just sits there -- you've got heart failure.

And that's the last thing in the world anyone wants.

Stop it now, before it starts -- stop it while it's still "preclinical" or sooner, and the best way to do that is to eat better.

In particular, kick the sugar habit.

Sugar is so dangerous to the heart that just one soft drink per day will increase your risk of heart failure by 23 percent, according to a study on men (but you can bet women would also see a jump in risk).

If you already have heart failure, it's not too late to turn it around. I'll have some tips on how to survive this disease in an email later today.