By Karen Stokes
Maintaining strong cardiovascular health may slow the pace of biological aging, potentially reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular and other age-related diseases thereby extending lifespan, according to a preliminary study to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023.
The meeting which was held Nov. 11-13, in Philadelphia, is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science.
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.
Life’s Essential 8 is a checklist of healthy lifestyle behaviors and health measures that drive optimal cardiovascular health. The 8-item scoring tool includes healthy sleep, not 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 all eight metrics, resulting in scores within three categories: high, moderate or low cardiovascular health.
“Greater adherence to all Life’s Essential 8 metrics and improving your cardiovascular health can slow down your body’s aging process and have a lot of benefits down the line,” said study senior author Nour Makarem, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.
The study analyzed more than 6,500 adults and found a clear link between high cardiovascular health — as measured by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 checklist — and slower biological aging. After accounting for a range of socioeconomic factors, adults with high cardiovascular health were about six years younger biologically than their chronological age.
The study participants’ average age was 47 years; 50% were women; and were self-identified as 6% Asian adults, 10% were Black adults, 16% were Hispanic adults and 64% were white adults.
Participants with strong cardiovascular health appeared younger physiologically. For example, those with high cardiovascular health had an average actual age of 41 but a biological age of 36, whereas individuals with low cardiovascular health, with an average actual age of 53, exhibited a biological age of 57.
“These findings help us understand the link between chronological age and biological age and how following healthy lifestyle habits can help us live longer,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, chair of the writing group for Life’s Essential 8 and a past volunteer president of the American Heart Association. Lloyd-Jones is also the chair of the department of preventive medicine, the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research and professor of preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
The American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health funded the study.