The age on your birth certificate may say one thing, but the age of your heart is likely significantly older.
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Tuesday reveals that three out of four Americans have a predicted heart age that’s older than their real age, which means they are at a greater risk for heart issues like attacks and strokes.
A person’s heart age is based on risk factors like blood pressure levels, whether they smoke and how much they weigh.
In the new study, the researchers analyzed data collected from every state and from the Framingham Heart Study and estimated that about 69 million U.S. adults had a heart age older than their actual age. For men, the average heart age was about eight years older than their chronological age; for women, their hearts were an average of five years older than their real age.
The researchers found some notable demographic differences. Heart age was highest among black men and women: black men had hearts three to four years older than white and Hispanic men, while black women had hearts five to seven years older than white and Hispanic women. Southern adults also had notably higher heart ages overall.
In the report, the study authors argue that heart age is a simple way to convey heart disease risk to their patients—one that might motivate Americans to adopt heart-protective lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eating better or exercising more often.