Heart Age: What is it and Why Does it Matter?
Heart Age is a tool to estimate how likely you are to develop certain medical conditions including heart disease, heart attack and stroke. If your heart age is higher than your real age, you're more likely to experience these problems at some point in your life.
Heart age is a valuable tool, used by the NHS, British Heart Foundation and other organisations. It's more reliable for people aged between 35 and 75.
Calculating Heart Age
Your heart age is calculated using risk factors. These typically include your age, sex, smoking and diabetes status, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diet, Body Mass Index (BMI) and any medications you're taking. If you don't know some of these values, don't worry; most heart age calculators will use a typical value for someone your age. This will make the test less reliable, but it can still produce a useful estimate.
You can use the free NHS heart age calculator here.
Understanding the Result
In the UK, a majority of people have a heart age that's higher than their real, chronological age. Around 34% of British citizens have a heart age that is 5 or more years above their real age. This is influenced by your age, genetics, gender, diet and lifestyle. Research on this can be found here.
If your heart age is lower than your real age, congratulations; you're at a lower risk of experiencing a cardiac event (like a heart attack) or stroke than most people your age.
If your heart age is the same, or roughly the same, as your real age, there's still work to be done. Lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure to a healthy level can bring your heart age down further, improving your chances of living a long and healthy life.
If, like most people, your heart age is more than your real age, you may need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle. Have a discussion with your doctor about how this can be achieved. You may be advised to cut down on salt intake, exercise more to get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
Of course, heart age is not an exact reflection of your health. The heart age calculation is not a substitute for medical advice given by a healthcare professional.