A recent study has caught the attention of the media. Yang et al. (2015) examined data from the now famous Framingham Heart Study, to predict “heart age” among U.S. adults. The study found that the average predicted heart age for adult men and women was 7.8 and 5.4 years older than their chronological age, respectively. Nearly half of U.S. adults had a heart age five or more years older than their actual age. Greater than 75% of heart attacks and strokes could be avoided or postponed if people could close the gap between heart age and actual age.
As clinicians, we often talk to our patients about cardiovascular risk factors and their subsequent risk for having a heart attack or stroke during the next 10 years. What is appealing about this study is that using the predicted heart age simplifies the conversation and might motivate more patients to live heart-healthy lifestyles and better comply with activity recommendations. From a population health level, it might motivate communities to implement programs and policies that support cardiovascular health.