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. Most American adults have a heart that is older than their actual age.
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.
- 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.
- In general US adults have hearts 7 years older than they should be. Having an ideal blood pressure (less than 120/80) lowers your heart age.
Examples of actual age vs. heart age:
- Actual age: (45 yr M)
- Problems: smoker, high blood pressure, diabetic, BMI-23
- Heart age: 75
- Actual age: (50 yr F)
- Problems: non-smoker, high blood pressure, diabetic, BMI-32
- Heart age: 85
WHAT CAN BE DONE
- Promote safe walking areas and access to healthy food in communities.
- Prevent heart disease and stroke by using easily understood communication materials to promote how to lower heart age and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Partner with hospitals to identify and address the health care issues in their community.
- Address tobacco use comprehensively by promoting non-smoking and tobacco-free areas, increasing the price of tobacco products, and running hard-hitting anti-tobacco ads.
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers can:
- Calculate heart age among your patients aged 30–74 and talk with them about the effect of risk factors on their heart health.
- Refer patients to community resources such as non-smoking and diabetes prevention programs that will support them as they make and keep these lifestyle changes.
- Help patients choose a risk factor or two to focus on improving first, such as quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, making healthy eating a part of their lives, and helping them take their medications as prescribed.
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.
- Take action at any age to lower your heart age and keep it low over time.