A heart age calculator takes into account several factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, lifestyle and age.
“Heart age is the age of your heart and blood vessels as a result of your risk factors for heart attack and stroke,” says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US CDC shares alarming reports on the heart age of adults. 1 in 2 men have a heart age 5 or more years older than their actual age while 2 in 5 women have a heart age 5 or more years older than their actual age, the US CDC says. In the US about 3 in 4 heart attacks and strokes are due to risk factors that increase heart age.
As per a latest report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), in India heart diseases account for 45% of the total deaths in the 40-69 age group.
A person can be 53 but the heart can be 75 years old!
Find out your heart age
The heart age is estimated considering the points you get in each of the following questions:
What is your sex?
What is your age?
- 30-34 years (minus 9 if female; minus 1 if male)
- 35-39 years (minus 4 if female; zero if male)
- 40–44 years (zero if female; plus 1 if male)
- 45–49 years (plus 3 if female; plus 2 if male)
- 50-54 years (plus 6 if female; plus 3 if male )
- 55-59 years (plus 7 if female; plus 4 if male)
- 60-64 years (plus 8 if female; plus 5 if male)
- 65-69 years (plus 8 if female; plus 6 if male)
- 70-74 years (plus 8 if female; plus 7 if male)
What is your LDL cholesterol level?
- 100-129 mg/dl (zero for both)
- 130-159 mg/dl (zero for both)
- 160-189 mg/dl (plus 2 if female; plus 1 if male)
- >190 mg/dl (plus 2 if female; plus 2 if male)
What is your HDL cholesterol level?
- 35-44 mg/dl (plus 2 if female; plus 1 if male)
- 45-49 mg/ dl (plus 1 if female; zero for male)
- 50-59 mg/dl (zero for both)
- >60 mg/dl (minus 2 if female; minus 1 for male)
Do you smoke?
- Yes (plus 2 for both)
- No (zero for both)
Have you ever had diabetes?
- Yes (plus 4 if female; plus 2 if male)
- No (zero for both)
What is your blood pressure level?
- 120-129/80-84 (zero for both)
- 130-139/ 85-89 (zero if female; plus 1 if male)
- 140-159/ 90-99 (plus 2 for both)
- >160/>100 (plus 3 for both)
Calculate all the points:
The points will determine the risk of developing heart issues in the next 10 years.
How is heart age calculated?
As per the US CDC, while a non-smoker, diabetic, obese 50 year old female with high blood pressure has a heart of 85 years, a 45 year old male with a healthy body mass index has a heart age of 75 years, if he is diabetic, has high blood pressure and is a smoker.
The CDC explains people have a high heart age because of lifestyle habits, weight, and other health conditions.
The occurrence of higher heart age increases with older age as health related factors add up. Younger people have an older heart age due to lifestyle habits like smoking and having a sedentary life with less physical activity.
What determines heart age?
There are several factors that determine the overall age of the heart of an individual.
Age: Age causes several changes in the heart. An older person’s heart beats less faster than a young person’s heart. “Aging can cause changes in the heart and blood vessels. For example, as you get older, your heart can’t beat as fast during physical activity or times of stress as it did when you were younger. However, the number of heartbeats per minute (heart rate) at rest does not change significantly with normal aging,” says US NIA.
Blood pressure: High blood pressure or hypertension is the biggest cause of heart diseases. In India, the benchmark for blood pressure measurement in a healthy adult is 120/80 mm Hg. When this number is on the higher side, doctors warn us of high blood pressure.
Cholesterol level: In India, total cholesterol levels under 200 mg/dl are healthy for adults. Many heart age calculators which follow the Framingham Risk Score take into account the national average of LDL and HDL in case you do not know the exact level.
Lifestyle habits: If you are a smoker, you are doing no good to your heart and are simply pushing it forward to age. Similarly, if you are not engaging your body in physical activity, you are deteriorating the heart health and age by multitudes.
Are heart age calculators absolute?
Experts are divided over the perfectness of the heart age calculator. Does it help with lowering the risk of heart disease?
“National estimates of ‘heart age’ by government health organisations in the US, UK and China show most people have an older heart age than current age. While most heart age calculators are promoted as a communication tool for lifestyle change, they may also be used to justify medication when clinical guidelines advocate their use alongside absolute risk assessment. However, only those at high absolute risk of a heart attack or stroke are likely to benefit from medication, and it is not always clear how heart age relates to absolute risk,” says a 2018 research study.
On the variation of prediction of different heart age calculators, the study says, “there is a large and growing number of heart age models and online calculators, but the clinical meaning of an older heart age result is highly variable. An older heart age result may indicate low, moderate or high absolute risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next 5-10 years, and the same individual may receive a younger or older heart age result depending on which calculator is used. Heart age may help doctors convey the need to change lifestyle, but it cannot help patients make an informed choice about medication to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.”
Disclaimer: The heart age scores are based on Framingham risk algorithm and the points have been sourced from the website of the Massachusetts General Hospital.