Quiz: How old is your heart?
You may blow out an extra candle on your birthday cake every year, but just how old is your heart? Take our quiz to determine the "vascular age" of your ticker
What’s your “vascular age”?
“Young at heart” takes on a whole new meaning with the emergence of a new heart health concept among the cardiac community called “vascular age.” While you may feel quite spry in your early 30s, your heart could literally be pushing 40, or depending on your lifestyle choices and other factors, 60-plus!
Vascular age is a relatively new concept that measures the “age” of your heart based on heart disease risk factors, explains Dr. Andy Wielgosz, professor of epidemiological and community medicine at the University of Ottawa. “The most important thing to know is that you can improve your heart age,” he says. Take our quiz to learn how old your heart is (keep track of your points); and discover how you can shave off the years with simple lifestyle changes.
3. Which best describes the amount of physical activity you get daily?
A) Plenty-the only days I am not at the gym are rest days. (one point)
B) Zilch-unless you count walking from my front door to the car. (four points)
C) Some-I walk everywhere and I try to take the stairs instead of the elevator (two points)
4. How much sodium are you consuming daily?
A) More than 1,500 mg (four points)
B) Less than 1,500 mg (one point)
C) Honestly, I don’t know. (four points)
6. Fruit and vegetables are…
A) …garnish, right? (four points)
B) …stars at every meal. (one point)
C) …snacks that I end up eating once or twice a day. (two points)
7. If stress was an object, I would…
A) …blow it off like a handful of feathers. (one point)
B) …feel pinned down and unable to move. (four points)
C) …need a backpack to carry it around. (two points)
8. Other factors to consider
Add two points for each of the following (or one point for each you don’t know-then visit your doctor and get them checked out):
• You have a family history of heart disease.
• You have high blood pressure.
• You have high cholesterol.
Score: Less than 10-You’re “young at heart”
Congratulations, your chronological age corresponds with your heart’s age. You should feel confident that your low-sodium, high-produce diet, and regular exercise routine is keeping your heart young, and thus lowering your risk of heart disease. Keep it up because you can actually slow the aging process of your heart. “It was always thought that age was a non-modifiable risk factor for heart disease,” says Dr. Paula Harvey, a heart specialist with the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “Clinical research is beginning to allow us to measure the degree of vascular aging, and that aging process may be modifiable with medication and lifestyle changes.”
Score: Between 10 and 28-You’re “middle-aged at heart”
Chances are you don’t feel middle aged, even if you fall into that age group chronologically. But you may not be leading as heart healthy a lifestyle as you need to be in order to reduce the impact of age’s effect on your ticker-namely, modifying the biggest influences on your risk of heart disease, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity, stress, a lack of daily consumption of fruits and vegetables and daily exercise. Making just a few changes can have a ripple effect. For example, exercise is one of the best ways to reverse the effects of aging on the heart (including atherosclerosis-hardening of arteries), says Dr. Harvey. “There’s pretty good evidence you can change the stiffness and dysfunction that occurs in the cells that line blood vessels over time, which leads to heart disease, through exercise.” Plus, exercise will help lower other risk factors for heart disease including diabetes and obesity.
Score: 28+ You’re pushing “senior at heart”
Good news-it is possible to be 60, and have a 40-year-old heart. If you’ve landed in this category, you should consult with your physician about ways to lower your “elderly” heart age, otherwise you face increased risk of heart disease. Don’t give up, over time actions such as quitting smoking, for example, will reverse the premature heart aging caused by the addiction in the first place, says Dr. Harvey. Similarly, maintaining a healthy body weight, especially as you age, is “very important” in the battle against heart disease, she adds.
Improve your heart health
Reader’s Digest and the Canadian Medical Association have developed a plan to keep your heart in tip-top shape. 30 Minutes a Day to a Healthy Heart is a clear, proven program is packed with vital tips on how to easily prevent the risk of heart disease-minor lifestyle adjustments is all it takes to notice dramatic differences in your overall health and quality of life. Designed to fit into any schedule, you’ll discover which diet and exercise choices bring positive results within a week.