CDC finds most adults' hearts older than their age

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the average American man has a heart that's 7.8 years ''older'' than his chronological age; while for women, the comparable ''heart age'' was 5.4 years higher than her calendar age.

The concept of heart age was developed by public health experts who worked on the venerable Framingham Heart Study as a way to help people understand their risk of having a heart attack, stroke, chest pain, peripheral artery disease or heart-related conditions related to heart, including death.

The concept had also been shown to work and a clinical trial in Europe found that people who were told their heart age improved their heart health more than people who were told their absolute risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In the trial people who learned their heart age were able to reduce it by 1.5 years over the course of a year, as against a reduction of only 0.3 years for those who got the traditional risk information.

Nearly 800,000 Americans die of heart-related conditions each year, with their illnesses costing around $320 billion annually, according to the American Heart Association.

Researchers from the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention decided to estimate the heart age of US adults and see how those ages differed according to where they lived, their education and income details as also their racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"Your heart may be older than you are. For most adults in the United States, it is," Reuters quoted CDC director Thomas Frieden as saying.

On the basis of data gathered from every state and existing data from the Framingham Heart Study, the CDC found that on average, 69 million Americans who had not experienced stroke or heart attack had hearts that were 7 years older than their age. Frieden said the CDC used "a simple risk calculation for having or dying of heart attack or stroke."

The results showed that one in two men had hearts five years older or more, with the average being eight years older than their actual age, while two in five women had hearts five years older on average. Also about three out of four cases of heart attack and stroke were caused by risk factors that made the heart grow "old."

Older heart age was common to racial and ethnic groups, but it was most prevalent among African-American adults, whose average heart age was 11 years older than their real age.

Being overweight with excess fat around blood vessels actually appears to boost the chances of survival following a heart attack, new University of Oxford research revealed.(See: Research reveals how fat protects after heart attack).