What’s heart age and how to improve it

Heart age reflects your cardiovascular health compared to your actual age. It is calculated by analysing various health markers in your blood (also known as biomarkers). However, we summarised all these biomarkers into a single health indicator score that’s easy to understand. Here's more on how heart age affects your health and ways to improve it.

Heart age simply shows how well your heart has aged based on its risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years. We estimate your cardiovascular disease risk by measuring several biomarker results like cholesterol, GlycA, ApoB/ApoA1 ratio and such, which medical research shows are strongly linked to your heart health.

How we calculate your heart age?

To arrive at your heart age, we then simply match your risk to the general risk of developing heart disease at different ages. So, for instance, when you see that your heart age is 32 years, it basically means that you have the same heart disease risk as a healthy 32-year-old. Or, your heart is as healthy as a 32-year-old's heart.

Biomarkers analysed to estimate heart age

GlycA, ApoB, ApoA1, ApoB/ApoA1 ratio, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, VLDL-cholesterol.

One-score summary

Blood values are difficult to understand without medical knowledge. My Nightingale, therefore, summaries all these biomarker results into an age comparison with your biological age, that’s easy to relate to. Therefore, if your heart is younger or the same age as you, it means you are taking excellent care of it. If it’s higher than your age, don’t worry. You can always improve by making simple lifestyle changes.

Your heart disease risk in the next 10 years

To give a more long-term view, the indicator also shows your estimated risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.

How to improve heart age

If you have the same heart age as your chronological age, it means you’re taking good care of your heart. If it’s higher than your actual age, you’ll need a combination of diet, physical activity and weight management to improve your heart health.

Diet

Medical studies suggest cutting down saturated and trans-fats.

It’s a myth that your heart hates fats. It depends on the quality of the fat. "Bad” fats that you usually find in fast food, full-fat dairy, red meat (especially processed meat like sausages) are not good for the long-term health of your heart. On the other hand, unsaturated fats that you find in plant-based oils like rapeseed and olive oil and various fish actually improve your health. Also, including fibre-rich food such as veggies and whole grains is a good way to make your meals heart healthy. This is especially important for foods that you consume on a daily basis. For example, if you eat bread every day, choose one that has high-fibre content (at least 6% of fibre). Similarly, instead of butter, use plant-based margarine as a spread. Spreads that include plant sterols and stanols have been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol. If you do a lot of cooking on a frying pan, then pick vegetable oils over butter. In salads, switch to vegetable oils (such as olive oil) as dressing and include some nuts –– both items excellent for improving heart health. Also, as you might know, foods that are high in salt and sugar content are not your heart’s friend. For instance, a DASH diet is therefore good for cardiovascular health.

Know more about a heart-healthy diet here.

Exercise

Studies show, 2 to 3 hours of endurance exercise per week can help improve your heart age.

Even though a healthy diet has is important for heart health, also physical activity has an important role in keeping our hearts and blood vessels in shape. Studies show, 2 to 3 hours of exercise per week, especially endurance sports (brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming), will do your heart good. Most part of these activities should be done at a moderate pace. So, say, for example, you are able to chat with your friend while brisk walking. However, some part of these activities should also make you sweat and breath heavily. For example, when you switch from brisk walking to jogging. Also, sports like football, ice-hockey, tennis or badminton are good for getting a bit more out of yourself while enjoying the outdoors and some good company. In case you are looking to do something indoors, try some fast-paced stair exercises.

Habits

You probably know this, but it’s still important to mention that smoking and too much alcohol are big factors that adversely affect your heart.

Along with heart age, My Nightingale blood analysis gives you over 20 different health results from a single blood sample. It includes a health index that gives an overview of your health, 6 health indicator –– heart age, diabetes resistance, fatty acid balance, inflammation, cholesterol balance and blood sugar –– that provide one-score summaries of different aspects of your wellbeing and numerous other biomarkers (such as GlycA, omegas, glucose, and BCAAs) that give an in-depth insight into your metabolic health.