Making several specific lifestyle changes could slow biological aging by six years, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
A new study from the organization has found that improve heart health is key to helping to slow down the aging process, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and other medical issues.
The key is to incorporate “Life’s Essential 8,” which the AHA defines as “the key measures for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.”
The details of the findings will be presented at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2023 from Nov. 11-13 in Philadelphia.
Nour Makarem, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, was the senior study author. (Columbia University Irving Medical Center)
“Improving heart health through healthy lifestyle changes does not just lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but can also slow down the rate of biological aging, which can increase the number of years of life lived in good health,” said study senior author Nour Makarem, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, in a statement to Fox News Digital.
Dr. Bradley Serwer, a Maryland based cardiologist and chief medical officer at VitalSolution, a company that offers cardiovascular and anesthesiology services to hospitals, was not involved in the AHA’s study, but shared his findings on the highlights that have been released.
Making several specific lifestyle changes could slow biological aging by six years, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). (iStock/American Heart Association)
“This is not surprising data, as those who focus on health tend to do well clinically,” he told Fox News Digital.
“There are many health benefits, beyond coronary artery disease, to following a healthy lifestyle.”
Chronological vs. phenotypic age
While Chronological age is based strictly on calendar years, the AHA tracks phenotypic age, which takes into account both actual age and blood markers that measure things like metabolism, inflammation and organ function, according to a press release from the AHA.
The American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8™ image is a wheel shape with 8 wedges representing the 8 elements essential for cardiovascular health. (American Heart Association
“Phenotypic age is a practical tool to assess our body’s biological aging process and a strong predictor of future risk of disease and death,” said Makarem.
“We observed a dose-response relationship, meaning that as heart health improves, biological aging slows down.
Even gradual improvements in lifestyle behaviors can be beneficial, the researcher added.
“Any progress toward improving heart health is clinically meaningful and promotes healthy longevity,” she told Fox News Digital.
Cardiologist Dr. Ernst von Schwarz, who practices in Culver City, California was not involved in the study but shared his thoughts on longevity with Fox News Digital.
“Biological aging [refers to] the continuation of the natural life cycle of cells or organisms, which follows a biologic clock that directs the processes of growth, repair and senescence (cellular aging) until apoptosis or necrosis leads to death,” he said.
Those who scored high for heart health had a younger physiological age; the opposite was true for those with poor heart health
n the study, researchers calculated the difference between actual and biological age for over 6,500 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2015 and 2018.
The participants, who averaged 47 years of age, were 50% male and 50% female.
Those who scored high for heart health had a younger physiological age; the opposite was true for those with poor heart health.
Per an example cited in the release, the average actual age of those with high cardiovascular health was 41, while their average biological age was 36.
Following a healthy diet is one of the “Essential 8” habits the AHA recommends for an optimal heart health score. (iStock)
For those with low cardiovascular health, the average actual age was 53 — compared to an average biological age of 57.
One limitation of the study is that the participants’ heart health markers were evaluated at only one point in time, the AHA noted, which means any later changes were not taken into account.