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Is Your Heart Aging Faster Than the Rest of You?

You may be in your mid-40s, but is your heart a senior citizen? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new report that suggests that your biological age isn’t the best indicator of the age of your heart.

CDC researchers looked at risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity to calculate the average “heart age” of men and women in every state. Those averages were then compared to average actual ages.

Researchers found that one in two men and two in five women have a heart that is five or more years “older” than they are – even if they had no history of heart attack or stroke.

Calculating the age of the heart represents a new way to get people motivated about managing their risk of cardiovascular disease, says Aidan Raney, MD, a board-certified cardiologist with St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Orange who also specializes in interventional cardiology.

“The notion of heart age is a simple and useful tool,” Dr. Raney says. “There are different ways to think about the risk of heart attack or stroke, but heart age is easy for people to visualize and easy to discuss with their doctor. The more untreated risk factors that are present, the older your heart is. By eliminating or reducing those risk factors, you can keepyour heart younger.”

The CDC report reveals that around 69 million Americans ages 30-74 have a heart age that exceeds their actual age. Men’s hearts tend to be older, averaging eight years older than actual age, compared to an average of five years older for women.

The prescription for a more youthful heart is to partner with your doctor to address the issues that are increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

“Your personal involvement in your cardiovascular care is essential,” says Dr. Raney. “Your doctor performs the tests and makes the diagnosis, but you have to take an active interest and be committed to your treatment plan.”

Some risk factors are beyond your control, like having a family history of heart disease, but there are plenty of things you should do to keep your heart in the right shape for its age.

“Keeping up to date on your check-ups is the first step,” Dr. Raney says. “If people don’t see their doctor regularly, they may have high blood pressure but not notice any symptoms until they have a heart attack. Next, you may need to make lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, avoiding heavy drinking, and getting more exercise. Eating right is essential. Good nutrition is key in preventing diabetes and maintaining a healthy body mass index. You also need to follow through on taking any medications your doctor prescribes for you. If you do these things, you will have a big impact on keeping your heart healthy.”

What is your heart age? Check the Heart Age Calculator and share a comment below.

Learn more about St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. Learn more about Dr. Raney. In addition to preventive care, Dr. Raney specializes in transcatheter aortic valve replacement, radial heart catheterization and coronary stenting, and management of peripheral vascular disease.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm64e0901a1.htm?s_cid=mm64e0901a1_w

http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heartage/index.html

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Lifestyle-Changes-for-Heart-Attack-Prevention_UCM_303934_Article.jsp

http://blog.heart.org/is-your-heart-older-than-you-are-2/

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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