According to a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Vital Signs Report, an estimated 75% of U.S. adults have a predicted “heart age” that surpasses their chronological age. This means they are at a relatively higher risk for a heart attack or stroke. Heart age is calculated based on an individual’s cardiovascular risk factor profile, with factors including high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes status, and body mass index (BMI) as an indicator for obesity. This is the first study to provide population-level estimates of heart age as well as highlight disparities in different regions nationwide. The report showed heart age varies by race/ethnicity, gender, region and other sociodemographic characteristics. CDC researchers used risk factor data collected from every state as well as the Framingham Heart Study to determine that nearly 69 million adults between the ages of 30-74 have a heart age older than their chronological age. “Too many U.S. adults have a heart age years older than their real age, increasing their risk of heart disease and stroke,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Everybody deserves to be young – or at least not old – at heart.”
Key findings in the report:
The heart age concept was created to more effectively communicate an individual’s risk of early death from a heart attack or stroke, and to lower one’s inherent risk. The findings can be used on both an individual and population level to boost heart health, particularly among groups that are most at risk of poor cardiovascular outcomes. Healthcare providers can use cardiovascular risk assessment calculators to inform treatment decisions and work with patients on healthy habits. For example, a 40-year-old woman might find out through her doctor that her heart age is 58 due in part to her long-term smoking habit and uncontrolled high blood pressure. Her doctor could then advise her on finding a program that will help her break her smoking habit as well as life-style changes and medication options that would get her blood pressure in check.
“Because so many U.S. adults don’t understand their cardiovascular disease risk, they are missing out on early opportunities to prevent future heart attacks or strokes,” said Barbara A. Bowman, Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. “About three in four heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase heart age, so it’s important to continue focusing on efforts to improve heart health and increase access to early and affordable detection and treatment resources nationwide.”