Most Americans have predicted heart ages older than their actual age.
By Caitlin Schille
Generally, being “mature for your age” is a good thing, but the fact that most Americans have hearts with a predicted age older than their actual age is in fact a bad thing.
In terms of health education focused on heart disease, one tactic is to teach patients about their heart ages. Heart age is the estimated age of your heart, and this is determined by looking at several factors, including age, body mass index, blood pressure, and lifestyle factors such as smoking. As many are aware, high body mass index, high blood pressure, and smoking all increase your risk of developing heart disease. Based on your responses to each factor, the heart age calculator (found here: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/cardiovasculardisease/heartage.html ) will give you an approximation of your heart age. Ideally, your heart age would show a number at or below your current age. A higher heart age means that you are at a greater risk for heart attacks and strokes.
However, as expected in a nation crippled by cardiovascular disease, the average American’s predicted heart age is older than his or her actual age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report, 3 out of 4 adults in the U.S. have a heart age that is higher than their actual age.
The report 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.
- About 3 in 4 heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase heart age.
Everyone would be wise to take 5 minutes to find out their heart ages. This will enable you to determine if you should be taking preventative measures to decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
It is never too late to take steps to prevent heart disease. Even those who have already suffered a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack can markedly reduce their risk of further problems by making lifestyle improvements.
So, consider taking some steps TODAY to prevent heart disease!
- Make healthy changes to your diet! Avoid excessive caloric intake and foods high in salt and trans fat. Shoot for more servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.
- Get active! It is absolutely okay to start small. If you’re not currently physically active, make a goal to walk for 10-20 minutes three times per week, and work up once you’re comfortable there!
- Quit smoking. If quitting cold turkey doesn’t feel realistic, first make a goal of reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke per day. Reach out to health professionals to see what resources are available to help you quit!
Sources: cdc.gov, framinghamheartstudy.org, heart.org