In a new study, CDC researchers found the hearts of U.S. adults are often much “older” than their chronological age.
Using data from the large and well-established Framingham Heart Study, researchers looked at information from 578,525 participants between the ages of 30 to 74 and found that men fared worse than women overall. On average, men had a predicted heart age of 7.8 years older than their chronological age and women had a heart age that was 5.4 years older, according to the study.
The study determined that an estimated 69 million American adults have hearts older than their chronological age.
This study found certain groups fared even worse, with hearts far older than their actual age. For African Americans, heart age for both men and women was an average of 11 years older than their chronological age. Additionally, if people had more education or household income, their heart age tended to “decrease” or become more in line with their chronological age.
In order to help the average citizen see their own heart “age,” the CDC worked with the Framingham Study and created the “heart calculator,” which can determine your cardiovascular age after assessing a few risk factors.
Dr. Sahil Parikh, a cardiologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, said he’s hopeful the new calculator will make it clear to patients how a few bad habits can have severe consequences on their health. He pointed out that doctors can currently calculate a patient's percentage risk for a cardiac event but that patients may not really understand the gravity of that risk percentage.
“If you tell a patient that your risk of having a cardiovascular [event] is 10 percent, their take-home is ‘Wow, there’s a 90 percent chance I’ll be fine,’” Parikh said. “We would consider 10 percent a high risk.”
“I can tell you story after story of people who have a thunderclap [cardiac] event and it strikes them out of the blue,” Parikh said. “When you go back in retrospect, there are telltale signs. They did not recognize it or felt that it did not apply to them.”
Those with an older “heart age” should not be discouraged and should instead take steps to decrease their risk, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or taking blood pressure medication, Parikh said.
“You can always modify risk,” he said. "There are clearly therapies today that reduce incident of heart attack and reduce mortality of heart attack and stroke.”
If you want to find your own heart age you can check out the heart calculator here.