A study from Public Health England found that one in 10 men over the age of 50 have a heart that is 10 years older than their actual age. In the U.S., one in three deaths is attributed to cardiovascular disease. Every 40 seconds, one American dies as a result of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined. The unfortunate part is that cardiovascular disease can be prevented by adhering to a healthy lifestyle, yet many Americans are still falling victim to heart disease.
In response to the alarming number of individuals over the age of 50 being diagnosed with heart disease, there has been a health initiative created in the UK known as the Heart Age Test. The online or app survey takes less than five minutes and involves some simple yes or no questions that can help reveal the age of your heart.
Associate Professor Jamie Waterall explained, “It’s about empowering people to understand what action they can take. Cardiovascular diseases affecting the heart, brain, and blood vessels are a major cause of premature death and ill health, but they’re largely preventable.”
Providing people with their heart age may make people aware that changes need to be made in a person’s life.
What puts you at risk
Risk factors for heart disease are split into two categories: modifiable and non-modifiable. Modifiable risk factors include obesity and smoking, while non-modifiable risk factors include gender and age.
Another interesting aspect that the app includes is the use of your postal code. Where you live also plays a part in your heart health. For example, if you live in a rural area, you are less likely to be exposed to car pollution compared to someone in the city. Furthermore, stresses vary between countryside living and city dwelling. Lastly, where you live may also be an indication of your socioeconomic status, and it is known that those who live in poorer areas tend to have worse heart health.
If you’re interested in learning how old your heart is, visit the One You website and answer the provided questions. They also have an additional resource that measures overall health, which asks questions more specific to diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits.
In the meantime, the steps you can take to bring you closer to a healthier heart include being physically active, tackling obesity, monitoring and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, lowering salt consumption, improving your diet, stop smoking, de-stressing, drinking less alcohol, and getting fresh air.
How to Reduce Heart Age
Reducing your heart age isn’t complicated and can easily be done through natural lifestyle changes and habits. Here are those lifestyle habits that you can adhere to in order to reduce your heart age.
Stop smoking: Everyone knows that smoking is a harmful habit, especially for your heart. Whether you’re a social smoker or regular smoker, you should quit as it is damaging your heart and making it much older than it should be. Just one year of smoking cessation can reduce your heart age by half.
Reduce saturated fats and ‘bad cholesterol’: Saturated fats can increase your LDL cholesterol — bad cholesterol — which can overtime thicken and stiffen arteries. When this occurs, blood flow is reduced, blood pressure increases, and your heart must work far harder. Cutting back on saturated fats and high cholesterol foods can help keep your arteries and heart younger.
Keep your blood pressure in check: High blood pressure is quite damaging to the cardiovascular system. Healthy blood pressure is 120/80. When blood pressure is high, it damages the heart. Unfortunately, many people live with high blood pressure as it is often a symptomless condition. Regular monitoring of your blood pressure can keep your heart safe.
Mind your weight: Being overweight puts added stress on your heart. Therefore, reducing your weight through diet and exercise can help your heart work less.
Get more active: Being active not only helps you maintain a healthy weight but it keeps your heart healthy. Finding ways to incorporate exercise into your daily life can go a long way in reducing your heart age.
Keep an eye on your health: Regularly checking in on your health can help catch things early on before they become more serious. This also allows for you to partake in early interventions to prevent possible serious health outcomes.
Lower salt consumption: High salt intake is a known risk factor for high blood pressure and as we know high blood pressure can rapidly age your heart.
Improve your diet: A diet plays a large part in your overall health and heart age. Eating junk will only make you feel like junk and increase your heart age as it leads to weight gain, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, all major threats to your heart.
De-stress: Stress, especially chronic, causes cortisol levels in the body to remain. When cortisol is present in the body complications and damage can occur.
Drink less alcohol: Alcohol is known to increase a person’s heart rate, increase blood pressure, and damage the heart muscle. Reducing your intake is wise to reduce your heart age.
Fresh air: Air pollution has been linked with poor heart health. Avoiding air pollution as best as possible can protect your heart in the long run. Heading out of the city from time to time to get some fresh air can be positive too.
Age is but a number, and it’s about you feel. But an older heart age can lead to serious complications, so it’s best you take the necessary steps and interventions to reduce your heart age.
Related: Physical activity may outweigh cons of obesity in elderly with cardiovascular disease