Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How old is your heart? disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the world, yet most people are sure that they won’t be felled by CVD. This is unfortunate because, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 80% of premature CVD deaths could have been avoided if the victims had been better informed and had made better health choices.

Doctors actually have a pretty good idea of who is at greatest risk for CVD. If your cholesterol is high and you smoke, you’re looking at big trouble down the road. However, it’s hard to impart that information in a way that people can understand it and, more importantly, use it to change harmful behaviors.

Therefore, Balearic Island researchers led by Angel Lopez-Gonzalez tested a new ‘Heart Age’ calculator to see whether it encouraged people to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Close to 3000 participants were divided into three groups. The control group was given typical heart health advice like you might receive at a check-up. The second group were evaluated for their ten-year CVD risk using the Framingham Heart Study risk score, the standard way to evaluate cardiovascular health. They were then given individualized advice based on the results.

The third group used the Heart Age calculator to find their ‘heart age value’. The significance of this measure was explained to them, along with advice on what to do about it.

Twelve months later, the subjects were reevaluated. The metabolic profile of the control group had gotten worse, but the profiles of the other two groups got better. The same was true for smoking, more people quit smoking in the Framingham and Heart Age groups than in the control group. The biggest gains were seen in the Heart Age group.  Apparently, being confronted with a prematurely aging heart is a great motivator.

If you're interested (and who isn't?), you can find out your own heart age. I found out that my heart is fourteen years younger than I am. Nice to know. 

Angel A Lopez-Gonzalez, Antoni Aguilo, Margalida Frontera, Miquel Bennasar-Veny, Irene Campos, Teofila Vicente-Herrero, Matias Tomas-Salva, Joan De Pedro-Gomez, & Pedro Tauler (2014). Effectiveness of the Heart Age tool for improving modifiable cardiovascular risk factors in a Southern European population: a randomized trial European Journal of Preventive Cardiology DOI: 10.1177/2047487313518479.