To use the online heart age calculator, the only numbers you need are your height, weight, and blood pressure reading.
Most Americans are not as young at heart as they might like to believe. More than three in four adults have a “heart age” that’s greater than their chronological age, according to federal health officials.
Your heart age depends on your blood pressure reading, smoking history, body mass index (see box, upper right), and whether you have diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the heart age calculator (www.health.harvard.edu/heartage) as a simple way for people to understand their risk of heart attack and stroke.
“Heart age is a valuable way to explain risk that could resonate with people. Nobody wants to be older,” says Dr. Dale Adler, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Other risk calculators many doctors use express a person’s risk of heart disease as a percentage over a 10-year period—a value that’s a bit hard to get your head around. Knowing that you have a 15% chance of having a heart attack over the next 10 years doesn’t actually sound all that serious. But if you’re 71 and your heart age is 82, that’s easier to understand, says Dr. Adler.
In a Vital Signs report published last year, CDC researchers used risk factor data from every state in the country and the landmark Framingham Heart study to estimate the heart ages of people without a prior heart attack or stroke. These are some of the key findings:
One in two men has a heart age five or more years greater than his actual age.
Two in five women have a heart age five or more years greater than their actual age.
About three in four heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase heart age.
You can’t turn back the clock on your chronological age, but you can dial back your heart age by making lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet, controlling your blood pressure, and boosting the amount of physical activity you do each day. An estimated 75% of cardiovascular disease could be prevented or postponed if people managed their risks by making those changes and sticking to recommended medical treatments.
Do you know your BMI?
Use this calculator: