How Healthy Living Can Reduce Internal Age and Disease Risk
Why improving your Internal age really matters
Heart attacks, strokes and sudden deaths are becoming increasingly common in Zambia and other developing countries. In fact, one of the most disturbing trends is that these devastating conditions are occurring more frequently in younger individuals than one would typically see elsewhere. Heart attacks and strokes can be quite disabling if not fatal and can adversely affect individuals who are in the prime of their most productive years.
Risk factors for heart attack, sudden death and stroke
Two impressive large clinical studies were conducted across all the 5 continents, the INTERHEART and INTERSTROKE studies demonstrated that the in over 90 percent of all the cases of heart attacks and strokes, 9 risk factors were mostly responsible for these unfortunate events. These risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, high cholesterol, smoking, poor diet choices (lack of fruits and vegetables), excessive alcohol consumption and stress. Further there is also a very close link between all these risk factors and early memory loss dementia and early cognitive decline)
The good news however, is that all these risk factors are modifiable i.e. can be reduced or avoided through adoption of lifestyle changes and or aggressive treatment with medications.
Internal versus chronological age and the risk of cardiovascular events
Advancing age has for the longest time been closely linked to cardiovascular events (heart attacks, strokes, sudden death and memory loss). Recently, however, the scientific community has started to focus more attention on internal age as a more powerful predictor of the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or dying suddenly. While chronological age refers to the time that has passed since birth, internal age, on the other hand refers to how well the organs are functioning. Normally, chronological age equates to the internal age. It is well established that People who live the longest (centenarians and supercentenarians) have lower internal ages compared to their chronological ages.
Reducing internal age and risk of events
Chronological age cannot be reversed and has nothing to do with our adopted lifestyle choices. On the other hand, internal age is intricately connected to our lifestyle choices (physical activity, stress, sleep habits, smoking etc.) as well as with biological genes and acquired medical conditions (obesity, diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure etc). Lowering one’s internal age through adoption of healthy lifestyles along with aggressive management of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes can lead to improved quality of lives and longevity.
By Sula Mazimba MD, MPH