Love your heart ♥️
Now first things first, I’d like to make a disclaimer that I am not advocating you eating a vast quantity of love heart sweets (!) but instead I’d like to talk to you today about loving your heart and specifically heart disease and what you can do to try to lower your risk of being affected. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a major problem in the UK with the British Heart Foundation reporting that it causes about 66,000 deaths each year: shockingly that’s one person dying from heart disease every 8 minutes and one person having a heart attack every 5 minutes. Thankfully improvements in treating heart attacks means that nowadays 7 out of 10 people will survive having a heart attack.
I don’t know about you but when I heard those numbers I was absolutely stunned. And the worst thing is that the vast majority of those deaths could have been prevented if people took action before they developed CHD. About half of all heart attacks are due to high blood pressure and approximately 27% of adults living in the UK (over 14 million people) suffer with raised blood pressure. That’s a lot of potential heart attacks waiting to happen. Having diabetes or high cholesterol will also increase your risk of having a heart attack or heart disease, as well as smoking, being overweight and not getting enough exercise. If you have a strong family history of heart disease, especially heart attacks or strokes affecting relatives under the age of 60, then your risk is increased again.
The good news is that apart from your age, sex, ethnicity, family history and some associated medical conditions, all the other risk factors can be changed and improved, and therefore your risk lowered. Public Health England have joined forces with the British Heart Foundation, the NHS website and researchers from University College London, to develop the “What’s your Heart Age?” online test which takes literally a couple of minutes to complete and is suitable for everyone over the age of 30 to have a go on. You input your:
postcode (as some areas of the UK have better heart health than others)
your height and weight so your body mass index (BMI) can be calculated
whether you smoke
whether you already have heart disease
whether you have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis (conditions which increase your risk of heart disease)
whether anyone in your family has had a heart attack or stroke under the age of 60
your cholesterol level and blood pressure if you know them (don’t worry if you don’t, the test result won’t be as accurate but can still be calculated)
The test then calculates your heart age compared to your actual age. You are aiming for a heart age the same age as you are, or even better a lower age! If the heart age is older than your actual age then the test will give some suggestions as to where you could make improvements, such as stopping smoking, losing weight or taking medication to lower your blood pressure.
If you are aged between 40 to 74 and don’t have pre-existing heart disease, you are entitled to a free NHS health check every 5 years. You can find out more information about this from your GP surgery. In the health check you will be weighed and your height measured, your blood pressure checked, and a blood test taken to find out your cholesterol and sugar levels. If you are under the age of 40 and worried about any of these things, for example if you have a strong family history of heart disease, speak to your GP or nurse about whether you could have some of the tests done anyway.
The Heart Age test really does only take minutes to complete and even if you get a result which you were not expecting or hoping for, the important thing is to realise that you absolutely can change your heart age and your risk of heart disease. There are links to excellent resources on the British Heart Foundation and NHS websites on how to lower your risk of heart disease, help to stop smoking and lose weight and if you are still concerned book an appointment with your GP or one of the nurses at your doctor’s surgery to discuss things further.
Remember love you heart, we only get one and it’s worth looking after!