Scientists have identified eight ways to slow the pace of biological aging.
Biological age can differ from a person’s actual age when factors like metabolism, inflammation and organ function are taken into account. For example, when the average actual age for someone with high cardiovascular health was 41, their average biological age was 36, according to the American Heart Association. On the other hand, those with low cardiovascular health with an average actual age of 53 had an average biological age of 57.
An analysis of more than 6,500 adults in the U.S. found that as heart health goes up, biological aging goes down.
After certain socioeconomic factors were taken into account, researchers found people with high cardiovascular health were about six years younger biologically than their actual age.
With this in mind, experts at the American Heart Association named eight healthy habits they call the "Essential 8" checklist to help improve heart health and slow a person’s rate of aging.
8 ways to slow your biological aging
1. Eat better
Aim for an eating pattern that includes whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and cooking in non-tropical oils such as olive and canola, says the American Heart Association.
Limit sweetened drinks, sodium, red or processed meats, full-fat dairy products, highly processed foods, and tropical oils like coconut and palm.
Also limit your intake of trans fat and hydrogenated oils that can be found in some commercial baked goods and fried foods.
2. Move more
Adults should aim for two-and-a-half hours of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, says the American Heart Association. Children should have 60 minutes of physical activity daily, which includes play and structured activities.
Increasing the time, effort or amount of activity over time will lead to more benefits.
3. Quit tobacco
The American Heart Association says inhaling nicotine products including traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., including about a third of all deaths from heart disease.
Also, about a third of children in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke or vaping.
4. Get healthy sleep
Most adults require seven to nine hours per sleep each night, according to the American Heart Association.
Children require more sleep than adults; children ages 5 and younger need 10 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps; ages 6 to 12 require 9 to 12 hours; and ages 13 to 18 need 8 to 10 hours.
The American Heart Association says "adequate sleep promotes healing, improves brain function and reduces the risk for chronic diseases."
5. Manage weight
Maintaining a healthy weight has many benefits. An optimal body mass index (BMI), which measures weight in relation to height, is 25. You can calculate yours online.
People can manage their weight by reducing calories consumed and increasing calories burned, controlling portions at meal time, staying active and eating a healthy diet.
6. Control cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in foods from animal sources and travels in the body by lipoproteins, according to the American Heart Association.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is "good" cholesterol, while low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered "bad" cholesterol.
High levels of non-HDL cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
You can control cholesterol levels by eating smart, staying active and monitoring fat intake to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.
7. Manage blood sugar
Over time the food we consume becomes glucose, or "blood sugar" that is used for energy. But high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves, says the American Heart Association.
Eating well, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding nicotine help to keep blood sugar levels in check.
8. Manage blood pressure
Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range will keep you healthy longer. Levels lower than 120/80 mm Hg are optimal, says the American Heart Association.
Getting good sleep, eating well, staying active and avoiding nicotine all support healthy blood pressure levels.