Just How Old is Your Heart?
Female doctor with the stethoscope holding heart

Your heart is definitely one way to take a closer look at your fitness levels, folks, but a lot of us aren’t doing so great in that respect. The Heart Foundation reports that nearly 800,000 Americans die annually from strokes, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, making heart disease the top cause of death in the country (https://theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts-2/). Close to one million people are estimated to experience a heart attack each year, too, with around half of these attacks coming on suddenly without any early warning signs.

How your heart is aging, so to speak, is a sign of its fitness and health. Research in this area has revealed some troubling figures. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, revealed that most people between the ages of 30 and 74 have a heart that is older than their current age (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6434a6.htm?s_cid=mm6434a6_w). The average predicated heart age for women was 5.4 years older than their current age, and men fared worse at 7.8 years.

How is heart age calculated?

Many factors go into calculating an estimated heart age. You can find online calculators on the professional websites of many heart organizations and medical authorities to calculate yours. You will be asked many questions, including whether you have or have had heart conditions in the past, your gender, your age, height, weight, smoker status, family history, whether you have diabetes and more. Keep in mind that while the results are not going to be anything other than an estimate, they can give you some insight into where your heart health currently is and whether you can improve it.

There are also other tests you can take to help determine your heart’s fitness. Your HDL/cholesterol ratio, for example, is determined by dividing your HDL levels by your level of cholesterol in total. Ideally, you want a ratio that is over 24 percent. Your fasting blood sugar level should be under 79 mg/dl, and your iron levels should be below 80 ng/ml. Excessive levels of iron in the blood can damage blood vessels and boost your risk of heart disease.

Of course, eating healthy and exercising regularly are two surefire ways to make your heart young again if you’re not happy with your estimated heart age and/or test results. Before you embark on a new diet and workout program, speak to your doctor for guidance.