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Following These 8 Steps May Slow Biological Aging by 6 Years, Research Shows

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Want to live longer? New research shows a link between strong heart health and slower biological aging — and there are certain steps that can help you get there. 

The analysis, using data from 6,500 adults who participated in the 2015 to 2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found that having high cardiovascular health may slow the pace of biological aging. Adults with high cardiovascular health were about 6 years younger biologically than their chronological age, according to the research. 

"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," study senior author Nour Makarem, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, said in a news release from the 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."

The inverse was also true: For those with a lower level of heart health, phenotypic age went up, meaning they were biologically "older" than expected.

"For example, the average actual age of those with high cardiovascular health was 41, yet their average biological age was 36; and the average actual age of those who had low cardiovascular health was 53, though their average biological age was 57," according to the news release.

The analysis used the American Heart Association's "Life's Essential 8" checklist, a list of lifestyle behaviors, to determine individuals' levels of heart health. The 8 steps include:

  1. Eating better
  2. Being more active
  3. Quitting tobacco
  4. Getting healthy sleep
  5. Managing weight
  6. Controlling cholesterol
  7. Managing blood sugar
  8. Managing blood pressure

"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 said.

A limitation of the study is that cardiovascular metrics were only measured once, so changes in heart health and its potential impact over time couldn't be determined.

Still, these finding help us understand how following healthy lifestyle habits can help us live longer, according to Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, chair of the writing group for Life's Essential 8 and a past volunteer president of the American Heart Association.

"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," he said in the release.

This preliminary study, which was funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, is set to be presented at the AHA's Scientific Sessions 2023 in Philadelphia later this month.

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Schedule27 Feb 2024