heart age infographic cdc
Image: Pixabay
September 02, 2015

Your heart is probably older than you. How can that be, you ask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that heart age is the age of your heart and blood vessels as a result of your risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Most adults have a heart age older than their actual age placing them at greater risk for a heart attack or stroke.

According to the CDC, 1 in 2 men and 2 in 5 women have a heart age five years older than their actual age.

Using data collected by the Framingham Heart Study, the CDC estimates that 69 million adults that haven't had a heart attack or stroke have a heart age that is five or more years older than their actual age. The average is seven.

Geographically, the South and Midwest have higher percentages of 30 - 75 year olds who have a heart age five years older than their actual age. Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Alabama have the highest percentages. North Carolina is one of nine states in which 45 to 48 percent of its population has a heart age five years older than its actual age.

Certain risk factors for heart disease and stroke are out of a person's control. Aging and genetics are impossible to change. The most common reasons for a higher heart age can be changed by making healthier lifestyle choices.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and diabetes can all be managed and changed, effectively making your heart younger and reducing the risk.

To lower your heart age, high blood pressure and high cholesterol should be lowered or controlled. Those with diabetes should work with their doctor to manage the disease and those who smoke should quit. Eating a healthy diet and getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can lower heart age as well as fight against obesity, which is a risk factor in and of itself.

You can calculate your heart age using the Framingham Heart Study found here.

More information about heart age can be found on the CDC website.