A recent study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that while many Americans believe that they are “young at heart”, it turns out that many have hearts older than their actual age. For example, the study found that the average American male heart is eight years older and the average American female heart is five years older than their chronological age.
What does this mean?
The CDC’s findings may offer some explanation for the fact that many Americans die from heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure when compared to other people around the globe. Furthermore, while more Americans use heart medications more than other people in the world, heart attack and stroke continue to be the leading cause of death in the US, killing more than 80,000 each year.
What Can You Do?
The CDC has developed a new test to determine “Heart Age,” which has been found to be a much more reliable indicator of a person’s risk for heart disease. The heart age test will determine if your heart is older, younger or average for your age, which can be much more important for longevity than chronological age.
The CDC is encouraging people to take matters into their own hands …be proactive. In addition to calculating your Body Mass Index ((BMI), the CDC is asking people to use an online calculator to determine their heart age. The calculator will give a person a more accurate percentage of risk for heart attack or stroke. Based on the outcome, one must see their family physician or cardiologist to discuss the results and implement a plan.
The Calculator - For Example:
Heart Age is very easy to use: You just need to enter your age, sex, blood pressure, whether you are treated for high blood pressure, whether you smoke or have diabetes, and your body mass index (BMI), with a handy calculator if you don’t know it. The tool gives you your risk for heart disease in the next ten years, compared with normal.
The CDC “Heart Age Test” is simple:
Enter: sex, blood pressure, (list if controlled), diabetes (list if controlled), smoking history, and body mass index (BMI), a simple height/weight calculation found on-line at www.bmicalculator.cc
Example: A 53 year old women with an acceptable BMI, may actually find that she is at great risk for suffering a heart attack or stroke because she smokes cigarettes and has uncontrolled high blood pressure. The calculator includes all the significant factors proven by science to affect a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke. These include: blood pressure, weight, BMI, blood sugar, cholesterol, age, sex and smoking history.
Example: 50 year old male smoker has uncontrolled high blood pressure of 140/96, no history of diabetes, and a BMI of 30 has a predicted heart age of 72 years. A female with a similar profile would have a heart age of 74 years.
To some, the solution may be obvious and for others it may be impossible. In the previous example of the 50 year old smoker, if he quit smoking for one year, he would halve reduced his heart age by 14 years (15 years for a woman). If he would reduce his blood pressure to 120, he would reduce his heart age by 6 years (10 years for a woman). And, if both risk factors were removed, he would reduce his heart age by 19 years (23 for a woman).
In the above examples, the 53 year old man does not have to take his 72 year old heart age as a death sentence.
What Individuals can do…
What Public Health Policy Can do…
BY THE WAY…
My loving and caring family asked me to take the test:
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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.