Predicted heart age is older than chronological age in most U.S. adults

Most adults in the U.S. have a predicted heart age that is significantly higher than their chronological age, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released on Sept. 1.

The average predicted heart age was 7.8 years older than chronological age for men and 5.4 years older than the chronological age for women. The estimates were based on participants not smoking, having normal systolic blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) and not having diabetes.

The CDC researchers defined heart age as the predicted age of a person's vascular system based on their cardiovascular risk factor profile. They noted comparing the heart age and chronological age provides an alternative to the 10-year risk score and provides further information on a person’s cardiovascular health.

“Use of heart age might simplify risk communication and motivate more persons, especially younger persons, to adopt healthier lifestyles and better comply with recommended therapeutic interventions to prevent heart disease and stroke,” the researchers wrote. “Moreover, its use might support public health efforts in geographic areas most at risk for poor [cardiovascular disease] outcomes and support the implementation of programs and policies that increase the availability of heart-healthy lifestyle options within communities.”

The researchers analyzed data from 578,525 U.S. adults between 30 and 74 years old who participated in the 2011 and 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey.

Participants self-reported their age, current smoking status, antihypertensive medication use, diabetes status and BMI. The researchers then used the Framingham Risk Score to estimate the heart age and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.

For men, the mean weighted chronological age was 47.8, while the predicted heart age was 55.6. For women, the mean weighted chronological age was 47.9 and the predicted heart age was 53.3.

There were racial disparities as well, with black adults having the highest predicted heart age for both men and women, followed by Hispanic and white adults.

In addition, 43.7 percent of the adults had an excess heart age of at least five years, including 48.8 percent of men and 38.5 percent of women.