To help us better understand your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statistic on the “age” of your heart, the vital organ that we insist on abusing through smoking, rich food or other excesses.
Because of these factors and others, U.S. men’s hearts are an average of 7.8 years older than their chronological ages. Women do a little better, with hearts an average of 5.4 years older than chronological age. About 3 in 4 heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase heart age.
From the CDC: Her age is 53. But her heart is 75 years old because she smokes and has uncontrolled high blood pressure. She’s not alone because most American adults have a heart that is older than their actual age. One way to understand your risk for a heart attack or stroke is to learn your “heart age.” Heart age is the age of your heart and blood vessels as a result of your risk factors for heart attack and stroke. 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 others that you can change. If you smoke or have high blood pressure, your heart age will be much higher than your actual age. The most common reasons for a higher heart age that can be changed or managed are: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and diabetes. At any age, you can make your heart younger by making changes that reduce your risk. Even if you haven’t had a heart attack or stroke, most US adults have a heart age older than their actual age placing them at greater risk of having one.
To calculate your heart age, go here.
What you can do:
- Learn your heart age and how to improve it.
- Start by choosing a risk factor or two that you’re ready to change, like smoking or high blood pressure, and focus on improving them first.
- Work with your doctor to make heart healthy choices for a lower heart age.
- Take action at any age to lower your heart age and keep it low over time
US adults have hearts 7 years older than they should be.
Though there are other ways of looking at your risk for having a heart attack or stroke, heart age is an easy way for us to talk about it. You want a heart age that is the same or younger than your actual age. Using information from the Framingham Heart Study and data collected from every US state, CDC projections show that around 69 million US adults that haven’t had a heart attack or stroke, have a heart age that is 5 or more years older than their actual age. One in 2 men and 2 in 5 women have heart ages 5 or more years older than their actual age, with the average being 7 years older.
Prescription for a younger heart
- High blood pressure – Make control your goal.
- High cholesterol – Work with your doctor on a treatment plan to manage your cholesterol.
- Diabetes – Work with your doctor on a treatment plan to manage your diabetes.
- Tobacco use – If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, get help to quit. Avoid secondhand smoke.
- Unhealthy diet – Eat a healthy diet, low in sodium and trans fats and high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Physical inactivity – Get 150 minutes every week of a moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking.
- Obese – Maintain a healthy weight.