woman on swing

Is Your Heart Age Older than You?

By Sweta Chandela, MD, Cardiologist – Virtua Cardiology

Hair color conceals grays. Cosmetics cover up wrinkles. But you can’t hide from your heart age—and if you’re like most Americans, your heart may have more years on it than you do.

You can calculate your “heart age” by tallying up your risk factors for heart attack and stroke, such as high blood pressure, smoking history, diabetes and body mass index (a measure of obesity). The resulting number expresses how many years of strain you’ve added to your cardiovascular system. For example, you could be 50, but the calculator says your heart age is 65.  

Using data from all U.S. states and the long-term Framingham Heart Study, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found:  

  • On average, Americans’ hearts are 7 years older than they should be.
  • Men’s average heart age was nearly 8 years older than their actual age, while women’s was 5 years higher.
  • Half of men have a heart age 5 or more years older than their actual age.
  • Two in five women have hearts that have aged an extra half-decade.

Heart age was highest for African-American men and women, averaging 11 years older than their chronological age. About 40 percent of New Jersey adults had hearts 5 or more years older than their actual age. New Jersey fared better than Pennsylvania and Delaware, but worse than California and Massachusetts.

Find the fountain of heart youth

You can’t turn back the clock on your chronological age, but you can certainly make lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke: 

  • Lower your blood pressure. A healthy blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg.
  • Reduce your cholesterol.
  • If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to keep it under control.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains lean proteins and low-fat dairy, and low in trans fats and sodium.
  • If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, get help to quit.

It’s never too late to improve your heart health. Talk to your doctor on how to get started.

Call 888-847-8823 to schedule an appointment with a Virtua heart specialist.

What’s your heart age?

Find out your heart age with this free calculator at virtua.org/heartcalculator. It only takes a few seconds and may be the kickstart you need to live a healthier lifestyle.

Updated January 20, 2020

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