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Is Your Heart Older Than You?

Red puzzle heart with stethoscope on grey wooden background

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 75% of American adults have hearts that are chronologically older than the rest of their physiology.

“Too many U.S. adults have a heart age years older than their real age, increasing their risk of heart disease and stroke,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.

The study is the first to illustrate differences in heart age across the U.S. Researchers found that 69 million American adults aged 30-74 have a heart age older than their actual age.

Who’s Impacted Most?

The study found that:

  • 1 in 2 men have a heart age 5 or more years older than their actual age.
  • 2 in 5 women have a heart age 5 or more years older than their actual age.
  • 3 in 4 heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase age.

There were also geographic and ethnic differences with African-Americans and Hispanics living in the Deep South most at risk. Still, the study found that the majority of Americans at least 30 years old on average had a heart age that was 7 years older than their actual age no matter where they lived, or their ethnicity and gender.

Biological Vs. Chronological Age

How exactly can your heart be older than the rest of your body?

By now, many are familiar with the notion that lies at the foundation of anti-aging medicine, which is the difference between biological age and chronological age. The former represents how your primary biomarkers measure up against a mean average of adults in your age group. The latter is invariable, or how many birthdays you’ve celebrated. So, in effect, you can be 55 years old chronologically but biologically have the body of a 70 year old … or a 45 year old.

“Heart Age” works on a similar concept. It’s a reflection of how healthy your heart and blood vessels are as a result of your risk factors for heart attack and stroke. It’s both a factor of nature (genetics) and nurture (environment and lifestyle choices).

“There are some things that put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke that you cannot change such as getting older or your family history, yet there are many other that you can change,” says the CDC.

The leading factors that can be changed or managed are:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy Diet
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Diabetes

What Can You Do?

The first step in improving your heart age is to be informed. You can actually determine your heart age by a simple calculation with a “heart age predictor” available online from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/cardiovasculardisease/heartage.html

If you find your heart is in need of a tune-up, consult with your doctor about lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, as well as possible medical treatment. With a little pro-active intervention, you can be young at heart, again.

“Because so many adults don’t understand their disease risk, they are missing out on early opportunities to prevent future heart attacks or strokes,” says Barbara Bowman, Director of CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. “About 3 in 4 heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase heart age, so it’s important to continue focusing on efforts to improve heart health.”

Source:

“Heart Age – Is Your Heart Older Than You?” CDC Vital Signs, September 2015

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