Biological age may not be the only number to consider when it comes to predicting longevity – consider your ‘heart age’ too, experts have warned.

So-called heart age reflects a person’s cardiovascular disease risk based on various risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking status, and the presence of conditions like diabetes.

Doctors say Americans should aim for a heart age younger than their biological age, even if just by a year, for the best chance of healthy, long life.

However, the average American adult has a heart that’s about seven years older than they are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The concept of ‘heart age’ was developed by the scientists behind the Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked more than 575,000 suburban Boston residents for nearly seven decades, analyzing risk factors for heart disease.

The heart age is influenced at least in part by weight, history of smoking, and other modifiable risk factors, which means a high age can be reversed.

University of Rochester cardiologist Dr Seth Jacobson said: ‘It’s a representation of your 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease. When translated into age, it allows us to see how our family history and personal choices impact our heart.’

Plenty of online calculators are available to help people age 30 and older better understand their cardiovascular health. All of them ask users to input their age, weight, and height to calculate body mass index.

They also require the user to know their systolic blood pressure, which often appears on top of the other lower number, representing diastolic blood pressure.

The calculator also asks if the user has type 2 diabetes, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease. In fact, type 2 diabetics are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

It also requires the user to know their total and HDL cholesterol levels.

HDL, or high-density lipoproteins cholesterol, is often called the ‘good’ kind of cholesterol because it carries the fatty substance that can restrict blood flow back to the liver, which removes the cholesterol.

Three in four Americans have a heart age that exceeds their actual age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggesting that the vast majority of American adults could be doing more to mitigate their risk of heart attack and stroke.

The majority of Americans have a heart age that averages seven years older than their actual age

The majority of Americans have a heart age that averages seven years older than their actual age

Heart disease is a top killer of Americans, accounting for about 20 percent of deaths in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available. 

Dr Joseph Wu, volunteer president of the American Heart Association, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, said: ‘Heart disease along with stroke, which is the fifth leading cause of death, claims more lives in the US than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined, based on the most recent data available.

‘So, the results of this survey, finding that most people do not know the significant impact of heart disease, is discouraging and even a bit frightening.’

Signs of an aging heart include chest pains while exercising, fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.

Reversing a high heart age starts with modifying unhealthy lifestyle habits. If you smoke or vape, doctors implore you to quit.

Exercising for at least 150 minutes weekly can reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and help maintain a healthy weight.

Cardiologists also recommend lowering cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol, by reducing trans and saturated fat intake from foods like red meat, eating lots of fiber, and opting for vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter or shortening when cooking or sitting down for a meal.

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