- An analysis of more than 6,500 adults found a clear link between good cardiovascular health (as measured by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 checklist) and slower biological aging.
- After taking into account a variety of socioeconomic factors, adults with good cardiovascular health were approximately six years biologically younger than their chronological age.
Study highlights potential benefits of cardiovascular health in aging
Having good cardiovascular health can slow the rate of biological aging, which can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other age-related diseases while prolonging life, according to a preliminary study to be presented at the Scientific Sessions of 2023 from the American Heart Association. Taking place November 11-13 in Philadelphia, it is a major global exchange of the latest scientific advances, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science.
Heart and Brain Health Assessment
The researchers examined the association between heart and brain health, as measured by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 checklist, and the biological aging process, as measured by phenotypic age.
Instead of a calendar to assess chronological (actual) age, phenotypic age is a robust measure of biological (physiological) age calculated based on your chronological age plus the results of nine blood markers (routinely captured during clinical visits) for metabolism, inflammation and organ function (including glucose, C-reactive protein and creatinine). Phenotypic age acceleration is the difference between phenotypic age and actual age. A higher phenotypic age acceleration value indicates faster biological aging.
Key findings and implications of the study
“We found that greater cardiovascular health is associated with slowed biological aging, as measured by phenotypic age. We also found a dose-dependent association: as heart health improves, biological aging decreases,” said the study’s senior author, Nour Makarem, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. of Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. “Phenotypic age is a practical tool to evaluate the biological aging process of our body and a strong predictor of future risk of disease and death.”
Impact of cardiovascular health on biological age
After calculating phenotypic age and phenotypic age acceleration for more than 6,500 adults who participated in the 2015-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the analysis found:
- Participants with good cardiovascular health had a negative phenotypic acceleration of age, meaning they were younger than physiologically expected. In contrast, those with poor cardiovascular health had a positive phenotypic acceleration of age, meaning they were older than physiologically expected. For example, the actual average age of those with good cardiovascular health was 41 years, but their average biological age was 36 years; and the actual average age of those with poor cardiovascular health was 53 years, although their average biological age was 57 years.
- After accounting for social, economic, and demographic factors, having the highest score on Life’s Essential 8 (high cardiovascular health) was associated with having a biological age that is, on average, six years younger than the individual’s actual age in compared to having the lowest score (low cardiovascular health).
“Increased compliance with all Life’s Essential 8 metrics and improving your cardiovascular health can slow your body’s aging process and have many benefits later in life. “Reduced biological aging is not only associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, but it is also associated with a longer life and a lower risk of death,” Makarem said.
Demographic study and criteria.
Additional study details:
- Study participants had an average age of 47 years; 50% were women; and self-identified as 6% Asian adults, 10% Black adults, 16% Hispanic adults, and 64% White adults.
- Life’s Essential 8 is a checklist of healthy lifestyle habits and health measures that drive optimal cardiovascular health. The 8-item scoring tool includes healthy sleep, no smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet, healthy body weight, and blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure. A person’s overall score is calculated using an average of the eight metrics, resulting in scores within three categories: high, moderate, or low cardiovascular health.
Perspectives on healthy aging
“These findings help us understand the link between chronological age and biological age and how following healthy lifestyle habits can help us live longer. “Everyone wants to live longer, but most importantly we want to live healthier longer so we can truly enjoy and have a good quality of life for as many years as possible,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, Sc.M., FAHA, chair of the writing group for Life’s Essential 8 and past volunteer president of the American Heart Association. Lloyd-Jones is also chair of the department of preventive medicine, Eileen M. Foell Professor of Cardiac Research, and professor of preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern UniversityChicago Feinberg School of Medicine.
Limitations of the study
One limitation of the study is that cardiovascular metrics were measured only at one point in time. Therefore, changes in cardiovascular health were not measured and their possible influence on phenotypic age over time could not be measured.
Coauthors, disclosures, and funding sources are listed in the manuscript. The American Heart Association and National Institutes of Health funded the study.