Heart Age: A Number You Need To Know
What does the future hold for your health and longevity? You may be able to find out: A simple tool can help you figure out if a heart attack or stroke may be in your future – by calculating how old your heart is.
Assessing your heart health is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans. Knowing your heart's age can help you improve or maintain your health and live a longer, fuller life.
What is Heart Age?
Calculating your heart's age is a way of determining your risk for heart disease and events like heart attacks and strokes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a formula using the following factors to estimate risk:
You can find out your heart's age by using this heart age calculator. If you have a heart that's older than your chronological age, you're not alone. The CDC evaluated the heart health of more than half a million men and women and found that 40 percent of Americans have hearts that are five or more years older than their actual ages.
For example, a 53-year-old woman might have a heart age of 68 because she smokes and has high blood pressure. Finding out your heart age and risk factors can be just the push you need to make healthier decisions.
Can You Lower Heart Disease Risk?
It may be scary to find out that you have a higher chance of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. But you can take control. Because heart disease prevention is always better than treatment.
If your heart's age is too high, try lowering it with these lifestyle changes:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess fat raises your risk of developing high blood pressure and cholesterol as well as high blood sugar, all of which contribute to heart disease.
- Exercise more: Becoming more active can lower your blood pressure and boost your good cholesterol levels.
- Quit smoking: Smoking promotes the buildup of fatty substances along artery walls, which can cause them to narrow and reduce or block blood flow to your heart.
- Get regular checkups: At wellness exams, your doctor can review your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, heart rate and body fat and provide recommendations if any of those measures are concerning.
- Manage stress: People often overeat or smoke when stressed, both of which can negatively affect heart health. Look for healthy ways to cope with stress, such as going on a walk, taking a bath or practicing meditation.
- Take medication: If you have a treatment plan to manage heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol or blood pressure, be sure to follow it – including taking medications as prescribed.
Is There a More Accurate Way to Predict Heart Problems?
Using the heart age calculator to assess your heart disease risk is fast and easy, but not as reliable as having a heart scan. A heart scan is a CT scan of your heart that looks for hardened calcium on your artery walls, one of the first signs of heart disease. It's a quick, noninvasive test that, together with factors like age and family history, lets your doctor more accurately assess your potential for a heart attack or stroke.
"When findings on a heart scan are combined with the traditional risk factors for heart disease, we can see a clearer picture of a person's risk of suffering from a heart attack," said Abdel Almanfi, MD, an interventional cardiologist with Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians in Indianapolis.