Your heart could be older or younger than you are. Not literally, but researchers do calculate how old your heart is to determine your cardiovascular health. Your “heart age” is a valuable metric to understand and assess your risk for heart disease. heart attack or strokes based on your risk factor profile.
To determine your heart age at home, you can use an online heart age calculator that considers factors like gender, age, weight, systolic blood pressure (measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats) and health conditions that significantly impact your heart age. . While this calculator gives you a general overview of your heart health, it’s best to get your heart regularly screened by a medical professional.
Below we’ll look at the main factors that determine your heart age and the lifestyle changes you can make to make your heart younger. You can also check out our guide to find out how healthy is your heart without equipment and how to lower your risk for heart disease,
Factors that determine your heart age
External factors like tension and physical activity can affect your heart age. However, other components like health conditions also have an impact.
Stress may also contribute to an aging heart, as one study on marital stress suggested. Changes in marital quality and cardiovascular risk were closely related in older married couples. On the same note, people going through divorce may have a higher risk of heart attack, Johns Hopkins Medicine also says that stress can raise your risk for heart health issues since stress increases inflammation in your body, which can in turn affect blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding salty foods and non-heart healthy foods like processed meats and sugary foods as these foods can contribute to high blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (also known as “bad”) cholesterol. Heart-healthy foods include veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains and lean proteins like fish and legumes, which help keep your heart in optimal shape.
Quality of sleep
One of the main factors in determining heart age is high blood pressure. But the CDC states not getting quality sleep raises your overall blood pressure. This is because during quality sleep, your blood pressure goes down. If you’re not sleeping well or much, you may have higher blood pressure for longer, putting more stress on your heart.
high blood pressure
Blood pressure can have a big impact on your heart age. The CDC listed a case of one woman who was 53 chronologically. Her biological heart age was 75 because she was a smoker and had high blood pressure. If I put my usual stats in the NYC Health heart calculator but adjust my systolic blood pressure to 200, my heart age then becomes 64.
Hypertension is so closely linked to heart age that a study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that maintaining systolic blood pressure to less than 120 in adults that are 50 and older can greatly reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and even death.
A 2019 study showed that physical activity may contribute to a lower heart age. The Mayo Clinic recommends adding 150 minutes of exercise weekly to lower your heart age and reduce cardiovascular risk. Exercise can also directly lower blood pressure, another contributing factor to heart age. Adding physical activity can include anything from indoor workout videos to chores around the house,
Smoking is one of the major causes of cardiovascular disease and can largely impact your heart’s age. If I put in the usual stats with the NYC Health heart rate calculator but list that I smoke, my heart age goes up to 47 this time. You might be thinking, “smoking affects my lungs, what does it have to do with my heart?” A lot. Smoking can increase the buildup of plaque inside the walls of your blood vessels. Also, chemicals found in cigarette smoke may cause your blood to form clots inside the arteries. All of this can contribute to an increase of your heart age.
Lastly, higher cholesterol levels can also raise your heart age. The heart age calculator through the American Heart Association lists LDL and HDL cholesterol as a significant factor in determining your heart age and health. And the Mayo Clinic also lists cholesterol levels as a health factor in your heart age. High cholesterol levels contribute to the deposit of fatty substances in your blood vessels, making it difficult for blood to flow through your arteries.
How to make your heart younger
As shown above, your heart age does not always correlate to your chronological age. You can make lifestyle changes to lower your heart age. While you may have a physically aging heart, more youthful health practices can help lower your heart age. Some tips listed by the Mayo Clinic include:
- quit smoking
- Get a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity a week
- Adjust your diet to include heart-healthy foodslike fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains and lean proteins like white meat poultry or fish
- Limit your salt intake
- Manage any health conditions like blood sugar if you have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. You can do this by consulting your doctor and making a holistic plan that includes nutrition, physical activity, regular screenings and the right medications.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.