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Do You Have an Old Heart?

Millions of people who say they are young at heart are actually anything but. According to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three out of four American adults have a heart that is aging faster than they are. This raises their risk for dying from a heart attack or stroke.

“Half of U.S. men and nearly half of U.S. women have a heart age that’s five or more years older than their chronological age,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director.

“Heart age” is the age of a person’s heart and blood vessels based on their personal risk for cardiovascular disease (see sidebar). Being aware of your heart age can help health care providers determine appropriate medical treatment and encourage patients to make lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk for heart disease.

“Take, for example, a 53-year-old woman who finds out that her heart age is 22 years older than her chronological age … and that’s because she smokes or has uncontrolled high blood pressure,” said Frieden. He goes on to say that a 45-year-old man may find out that his heart is 30 years older than he is, despite the fact that his weight is healthy, because he has untreated high blood pressure and diabetes and smokes. “For that woman or that man, for every American, learning your heart age can be a clear call to take charge of your health,” Frieden said.

Using data collected by the Farmingdale Heart Study, an ongoing project of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to document the common factors that contribute to heart disease, CDC researchers determined that nearly 69 million U.S. adults between the ages of 30 and 74 have a heart age that is older than they are.

Specifically, researchers found:

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States and Canada. More Laborers die from heart disease than any other illness or injury.

  • Heart age in an average adult man is eight years older than his chronological age
  • Heart age in an average adult woman is five years older than her chronological age
  • Heart age is highest among African Americans: 11 years older for men and women

More than 600,000 people in the United States die from heart disease every year. The CDC says that at least 200,000 of these deaths could be avoided through better management of personal risks and heath conditions.

The CDC has a calculator on its website that can help you determine your heart age. Access it here and take steps to keep your heart from reaching its senior years before you do.

The LHSFNA’s Nutrition and Fitness for Laborers program can help Laborers improve dietary and exercise habits that will help keep their hearts healthy. The program includes an Instructor’s Guide, participant pamphlets and educational posters. For more information, call 202-628-5465.

The LHSFNA brochures Becoming Physically Active and Weight Matters offer additional tips and information on diet and exercise. Order all of the above materials by going to and clicking on Publications.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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