Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How old is your heart?

by Eveline Gan
EACH day, the heart of an average adult (weighing about 70kg) works tirelessly to pump about 7,200 litres of blood. Yet many take their heart health for granted.

Globally, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is one of the leading causes of deaths. In Singapore, the situation is not much different. In 2008, heart disease and stroke were the top killers, accounting for approximately 32 per cent of total deaths, based on statistics from the Ministry of Health.

In the natural course of ageing, the heart ages at the same rate as the rest of your body. However, risk factors such as high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and high body mass index can elevate one's risk of heart disease, said Associate Professor Tai E Shyong, a senior consultant at the National University Health System (NUHS) division of endocrinology, department of medicine.

To illustrate this, Unilever created Heart Age Calculator (, an online tool that helps assess a person's "heart age".

According to Dr Mark Cobain, Unilever's research and development platform director for nutrition and health, who was in Singapore last week for a symposium on diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the Heart Age Calculator was developed based on 40 years of heart health research models, and uses standard heart disease and stroke risk factors to estimate the "age" of a person's heart.

"Essentially, it helps a person determine his risk of developing cardiovascular diseases over the next decade," said Dr Cobain.

Depending on the risk factors, your heart age can be higher or lower than your actual age.

Assoc Prof Tai, who also spoke at the symposium, explained: "For instance, if you are 40 years old and your heart age is 50, this means that you have increased risk factors for heart disease over the next 10 years, and that steps need to be taken to reduce these risk factors."

Dr Cobain added: "The ideal is for your heart age to be lower or at least the same age as your birth age."

Through Heart Age Calculator, Unilever hopes to motivate 100 million people to take the Heart Age test and lower elevated heart ages by 2020.

My heart is 'older' than my actual age
by Eveline Gan

I may be only 29, but my heart is apparently at least four years older at 33 years, or so the Heart Age Calculator claimed.

The online tool uses statistical heart health models to estimate a person's "heart age".

I was required to answer a series of questions on my cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body mass index (you will be required to fill in your height, weight and waistline), if I smoked or had diabetes.

Although I have a relatively healthy lifestyle - I don't smoke, have a healthy BMI, and don't have diabetes - my cholesterol level is slightly raised, which probably explains why my heart age is older than my actual age.

During the interview, Dr Cobain assured me that there is no need for me to be overly alarmed by my "33-year-old heart", and suggested that I can certainly "turn back the clock by making some simple lifestyle changes".

I guess that means cutting down on my favourite fried chicken wings.

From TODAY, Health - Tuesday, 28-Sep-2010
How old is your heart?

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