CLEVELAND: New US research has found that your physiological age, which is how well you respond to exercise, may be a better predictor of life expectancy than your chronological, actual age.
Carried out by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, the new large-scale study looked at 126,356 patients with an average of 53.5 years who were referred to the clinic for their first exercise stress test, a common exam which diagnoses heart problems.
During the test patients walk on a treadmill, which gets more difficult throughout the exam, and have their exercise capacity, heart rate response to exercise, and heart rate recovery measured.
The researchers then developed a formula which calculates how well people respond to exercise – their “physiological age” – using this data, which they call the A-BEST (Age Based on Exercise Stress Testing). They also took into account gender and any medications that affect heart rate.
The findings, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed that after an average follow-up of 8.7 years, the A-BEST was a significantly better predictor of mortality than chronological age, even after taking into account sex, smoking, body mass index, statin use, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and end-stage kidney disease.
“Age is one of the most reliable risk factors for death: the older you are, the greater your risk of dying,” said study author Dr Serge Harb. “But we found that physiological health is an even better predictor. If you want to live longer then exercise more. It should improve your health and your length of life.”
Dr Harb added that the A-BEST could also be used by doctors when giving patients the results of exercise testing, “Telling patients their estimated age based on exercise performance is a powerful estimate of longevity and easier to understand than providing results for the individual components of the examination.”
“Knowing your physiological age is good motivation to increase your exercise performance, which could translate into improved survival,” he continued. “Telling a 45-year-old that their physiological age is 55 should be a wake-up call that they are losing years of life by being unfit. On the other hand, a 65-year-old with an A-BEST of 50 is likely to live longer than their peers.”