Following These 8 Healthy Habits Slows Down Aging by Up to 6 Years
By Chris Melore
Maintaining a healthy heart might be the secret to staying young, according to a new study. Researchers working with the American Heart Association discovered that following the AHA’s “Life’s Essential 8” checklist could help someone slow their aging by as much as six years.
The study’s focus is on how a healthy heart might keep our bodies feeling and functioning younger than our actual chronological age. Researchers used the checklist to measure heart and brain health during their experiments. This checklist factors in lifestyle choices and health measures like sleep, diet, and blood pressure to gauge an individual’s cardiovascular well-being.
Specifically, the Life’s Essential 8 checklist includes:
- Eat Better
- Be More Active
- Quit Tobacco
- Get Healthy Sleep
- Manage Weight
- Control Cholesterol
- Manage Blood Sugar
- Manage Blood Pressure
Biological age, in this context, is determined by something called phenotypic age, a concept that goes beyond the traditional calendar to assess our body’s true wear and tear. Phenotypic age is calculated by adding up your chronological age (how old you are according to your birth date) with the results of nine different blood tests that check various markers like sugar levels, inflammation, and kidney function. When someone’s phenotypic age is higher than their actual age, it suggests that their body is aging faster biologically.
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“We found that higher cardiovascular health is associated with decelerated biological aging, as measured by phenotypic age. We also found a dose-dependent association – as heart health goes up, biological aging goes down,” says 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 a media release. “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.”
The research team discovered that people with better heart health had a younger biological age compared to those with poor heart health. For instance, people with high cardiovascular health had an average chronological age of 41 but their bodies appeared to be 36 years-old biologically. On the flip side, individuals with low cardiovascular health were, on average, 53 years-old but had a biological age of 57.
Adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic differences, the researchers noted that the best scores on the Life’s Essential 8 checklist correlated with a biological age that was, on average, six years younger than the actual age.
The study underscores the benefits of following the Life’s Essential 8 guidelines which include a balanced diet, regular exercise, and not smoking, among other things.
“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. Reduced biologic aging is not just associated with lower risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, it is also associated with longer life and lower risk of death,” Makarem says.
The investigation involved over 6,500 adults from various backgrounds, with an equal male-to-female ratio, and diverse ethnic representations including Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White adults.
“These findings help us understand the link between chronological age and biological age and how following healthy lifestyle habits can help us live longer. Everyone wants to live longer, yet more importantly, we want to live healthier longer so we can really enjoy and have good quality of life for as many years as possible,” adds 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.
The study authors say the message from this research is clear: taking care of your heart doesn’t just add years to your life, but life to your years, allowing for a longer and healthier lifespan.
The findings are being presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023.
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Source: Study Finds