By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three out of four U.S. adults have a predicted "heart age" that is older than they are, putting them at increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, government researchers said on Tuesday.
"Your heart may be older than you are. For most adults in the United States, it is," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released the first study to provide population-level estimates of heart age nationwide.
The CDC calculates heart age based on cardiovascular risk factors including smoking, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
"It gives a simple risk calculation for having or dying of heart attack or stroke," Frieden said.
For the report, CDC researchers gathered used risk factor data collected from every U.S. state as well as information from a large, ongoing heart study.
They found that nearly 69 million adults between the ages of 30 and 74 have a heart age older than their actual age.
The report also showed significant differences based on gender and other factors.
For example, the average heart age for adult men is 8 years older than their chronological age, compared to 5 years older for women.
The study found disparities between heart age and chronological age for all racial and ethnic groups, but they were highest among African-American men and women, whose heart age was 11 years older than their actual age for both genders.
The study also found geographical differences in average heart age, with individuals in the Southern United States having higher heart ages than other regions of the country.
States with the highest percentage of adults with a heart age 5 years or more older than their actual age included Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama. Those with the lowest percentage of adults with heart ages that exceeded their actual age by more than 5 years included Utah, Colorado, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts.
Although individuals may be concerned to learn that their heart age was years older than their actual age, Frieden said the numbers can be improved by reducing one or two cardiovascular risk factors, such as stopping smoking or controlling high blood pressure.
"It is never too late to turn back the clock on your heart age," Frieden said.
SOURCE: http://1.usa.gov/1hf2iYF CDC Vital Signs, online September 1, 2015.