You may feel young at heart, but your heart may be aging faster than the rest of your body, according to a new CDC study.

Using data from an online tool that determines the age of a person’s heart based on factors like weight, smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure, CDC researchers found that 3 out of 4 Americans’ hearts are older than their chronological age, putting these individuals at risk for heart disease, stroke and premature death. [1]

The CDC said in its Vital Signs report that the majority of adults aged 30-74 have a predicted heart age that is “significantly higher than their chronological age.” By “majority,” the agency means an estimated 69 million adults – about the number of people living in the 130 largest U.S. cities combined.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.

For adult men, the average predicted heart age was nearly 8 years older than their chronological age; for women, it was 4.5 years older. Those with the highest heart ages were found to be African-American men and women, who had an average heart age of 11 years older than their chronological age.

Researchers collected risk factor data from the Framingham Heart Study, which began in Massachusetts in 1948. The study has followed thousands of people in the nearly 60 years it has been conducted in an effort to identify the causes of cardiovascular disease.

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“The heart age concept was created to more effectively communicate a person’s risk of dying from heart attack or stroke — and to show what can be done to lower that risk,” the report said.

“Because so many US adults don’t understand their cardiovascular disease risk, they are missing out on early opportunities to prevent future heart attacks or strokes,” said Barbara Bowman, director of CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

“About three in four heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase heart age, so it’s important to continue focusing on efforts to improve heart health and increase access to early and affordable detection and treatment resources nationwide.”

In most cases, heart disease is avoidable by maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, not smoking or quitting smoking, getting enough exercise, and eating healthy. The CDC said it released the report and the online tool to help people get a better grasp on their health level, and to help them change their lifestyle to make it healthier, if need be.

[1] AFP


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.