Your Heart Age May Be Older Than You Think

Dr. Quanhe Yang PHD Epidemiologist CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Interview with:
Dr. Quanhe Yang PHD

CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Yang:  One in every three Americans dies of cardiovascular disease. For both men and women, it is the number one cause of death. Heart age is the predicted age of a person’s vascular system based on his or her cardiovascular risk factor profile. The concept was created as a way to more effectively illustrate an individual’s future risk of developing or dying from a heart attack or stroke. Using information from the Framingham Heart Study and data collected from every U.S. state, this study is the first to provide population-level estimates of heart age and to highlight disparities in heart age nationwide.

Our research found one in two U.S. men and two in five U.S. women have a heart age that is five or more years older than their chronological age, a sign they are at higher risk for heart attacks and stroke. In all, we found nearly 69 million adults between the ages of 30 and 74 have a heart age five or more years older than their actual age. That’s about the number of people living in the 130 largest U.S. cities combined. In addition, there are variations in heart age based on gender, race/ethnicity, region and other demographics.

The good news is, heart age can be lowered through lifestyle changes or appropriate medication. U.S. adults both young and old can use this information to take charge of their own heart health and take immediate steps to prevent future heart attacks or strokes.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Yang:  Patients should learn their heart age (visit and how to improve it. They can start by choosing a risk factor or two that they are ready to change, like smoking or high blood pressure, and focus on improving that first. People can take action at any age to lower their heart age and keep it low over time.

Healthcare professionals can use estimated heart age to help empower their patients to start or maintain healthy habits. For example, if a man in his mid-fifties has a heart age more than 20 years older due to smoking and high blood pressure, his healthcare provider can help him find an effective smoking cessation program and provide the right medications to manage hypertension. Some studies have found that use of the heart age concept has motivated more people to live heart-healthy lifestyles and better comply with recommended therapeutic interventions.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Yang:  Additional research examining the effects of using heart age messaging on cardiovascular health at the individual and community levels would be useful. We will continue to monitor the trends and changes of major cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as prevalence of smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes, and examine the progress of improvement in heart age among the U.S. adults in the future.


 Predicted Heart Age and Racial Disparities in Heart Age Among U.S. Adults at the State Level

MMWR Weekly

September 4, 2015 / 64(34);950-958

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Dr. Quanhe Yang PHD (2015). Your Heart Age May Be Older Than You Think