(NEXSTAR) — Aging is inevitable, but you might be able to slow down the process with some healthy lifestyle changes.
That’s according to a new study presented Monday at the American Heart Society’s Scientific Sessions 2023 in Philadelphia. Scientists pointed to eight healthy habits that can reduce your biological age and help you live longer.
While everyone knows their chronological age (the number of years you’ve been alive), biological age refers to how old your cells are and the speed at which you’re aging physically.
For the study, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City calculated the phenotypic, or biological, age of 6,500 adults.
The analysis found that good cardiovascular health can slow the pace of biological aging by up to six years and reduce the risk of developing age-related diseases.
For example, the average actual age of participants with high cardiovascular health was 41 — but their biological age was 36. On the other hand, the average actual age of those with low cardiovascular health was 53, though their biological age was 57.
8 ways to slow biological aging
The researchers used the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 checklist, listed below, to analyze the link between heart and brain health for the study. These habits not only help with aging but can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and other health problems, the AHA said.
- Eat healthier foods: Try to consume whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, plant-based protein and lean meats, like skinless poultry or fish. The AHA also suggests cutting back on sugary drinks, alcohol, salt, and highly-processed foods.
- Move your body: Each week, aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, according to the AHA. You can also do a combination of both.
- Get enough sleep: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the amount of sleep you need changes with age. Adults should get about 7-9 hours each night.
- Manage weight: Maintaining the proper weight for your body type has many health benefits, the AHA explained. You can manage your weight by controlling your portion sizes, staying active and eating nourishing meals.
- Quit tobacco: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US, according the CDC, which has tips for quitting on its website.
- Manage blood sugar: You may experience high blood sugar levels when your body fails to produce enough insulin. Fasting blood sugar or glucose levels lower than 100 mg/dL fall within the healthy range, according to the AHA.
- Manage blood pressure: High blood pressure can be a “silent killer,” the AHA said. Levels less than 120/80 mm Hg are ideal.
- Control your cholesterol: High levels of low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) can lead to heart disease, according to the AHA. You can control cholesterol levels by eating a healthy diet, staying active and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats.
“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,” the study’s senior author Nour Makareman, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, said in a statement.
“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 added.