Perk of a heart-healthy lifestyle: Slower aging

We all have a chronological age — how long we’ve been on the planet.

But we also have a biological age that’s based on the health and condition of the cells that make up our body

The two don’t always match. Sometimes your body — and even individual organs — can be a lot older than your birth date.

We have no control over the passage of time. But we do have a lot of control over our physiological age.

That means we have a lot of say over how healthy — or infirm — we may be as we age.

In fact, if you’re already taking care of your heart health by practicing some known lifestyle factors, you may have already slowed down the aging of your body.

Sounds like magic, I know, but it isn’t…

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Your heart drives the aging process

Methylation is a chemical reaction in the body in which a small molecule called a methyl group gets added to DNA.

DNA methylation is a normal and necessary process that controls gene expression. But when there’s too much of it going on, bad things can happen.

Conditions as diverse as cancer, chronic fatigue, and systemic inflammation are a direct result of poor methylation.

And then there’s heart disease.

Poor methylation can cause increased levels of the amino acid homocysteine. There is a strong relationship between high homocysteine levels and artery damage that can lead to atherosclerosis, which can age you before you know you have it, and heart disease.

And according to recent research, heart disease is the main driver of premature aging.

A heart-healthy lifestyle can slow aging

A study published by the American Heart Association shows that following a heart-healthy lifestyle may slow down the process of DNA methylation in our cells, and by doing so slow down how fast we age.

Using the AHA’s Life’s Essential 8™ tool, researchers obtained scores on cardiovascular health for 5,682 adults drawn from the Framingham Heart Study, which for over 40 years has been a source of data on risk factors for heart disease.

Participants were scored from 0 to 100, as well as rated using four tools that assess biological age using DNA methylation, and a fifth tool that assesses a person’s genetic tendency towards accelerated biological aging.

Participants were followed for up to 14 years for new-onset cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular death, or death from any cause.

The takeaways:

  • For each 13-point increase in a person’s Life’s Essential 8™ score, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease for the first time was reduced by about 35%, death from cardiovascular disease was reduced by 36% and death from any cause was reduced by 29%.
  • DNA methylation accounted for 39%, 39%, and 78% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular death and all-cause death, respectively, regardless of genetic predisposition to accelerated aging.

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How to live longer and healthier

“Our study findings tell us that no matter what your actual age is, better heart-healthy behaviors and managing heart disease risk factors were associated with a younger biological age and a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, death from heart disease and stroke and death from any cause,” said Jiantao Ma, Ph.D., senior study author and an assistant professor in the division of nutrition epidemiology and data science at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

Are you ready to get started?

The eight factors in Life’s Essential 8™ shouldn’t surprise you:

  • Eat better
  • Be more active
  • Quit tobacco
  • Get healthy sleep
  • Manage weight
  • Control cholesterol
  • Manage blood sugar
  • Manage blood pressure

Whether it’s working with your doctor, joining a support group to quit smoking, or getting out and walking with friends, everything you do now to get a handle on these eight factors will buy you more years — more healthy years — to enjoy life.

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Heart healthy behaviors may help reverse rapid cell aging — Eureka Alert

Epigenetic Age Mediates the Association of Life’s Essential 8 With Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality — Journal of the America Heart Association

Life’s Essential 8 — American Heart Association

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.