Heart disease no longer affects just older adults. Younger people are affected by heart disease more and more each year. This is in part due to the increased occurrence of conditions that lead to heart disease.
Currently, 7.6 million people are living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK and Coronary Heart Disease is the second most common cause of premature death – 81,949 people died of heart-related issues in 2019 (BHF, 2021, ONS, 2021).
September 29th is World Heart Day – the ideal time to learn about the risk of heart disease and the steps you can take from a young age to help your heart.
Factors that may increase the risk of heart disease:
High blood pressure: High blood pressure is responsible for more than half of all strokes and heart attacks and is a leading factor for developing heart disease. In England, 26% of women and 31% of men have high blood pressure (Blood Pressure UK, 2021).
High Cholesterol: High cholesterol is associated with 1 in 4 heart and circulatory disease deaths in the UK. Not getting enough physical activity and a poor diet may increase the level of unhealthy cholesterol in your body.
Smoking: In the UK, those aged 25–34 make up the highest proportion of smokers – 19%. The damage caused to the blood vessels can lead to an increased risk of heart disease (ONS, 2020).
Obesity: 28% of adults in England are thought to be obese and a further 36% are considered overweight. Around 75% of people aged 45-74 in England are overweight or obese (Baker, 2021).
Diabetes: Currently, more than 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes. Lifestyle changes can be effective in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 50%, however, if nothing changes it is predicted that by 2030 5.5 million people will have diabetes (Diabetes UK, 2021).
Lack of exercise: Of people in England aged 16 and over only 63.3% were physically active, with around 20million people failing to meet Government recommendations for physical activity. Women are less likely to be active than men (BHF, 2017, GOV.UK, 2020).
Poor diets: Research indicates that we still consume too much sugar and salt based on the recommended amounts. This may increase weight and cholesterol levels and the risk of heart diseases (UKHSA, 2020).
Factors that you cannot change:
Age: As mentioned, heart disease can occur at any age, however, the risk increases with older age. Cardiovascular disease has seen an increase for women aged 75+ and men aged 65+, however, generally, a higher risk is recorded from 45 years onwards.
Gender: Some risk factors may affect men and women differently. For example, oestrogen provides women with some protection against heart disease, however, diabetes increases the risk of heart disease more among women than men.
Race/ethnicity: Some illnesses are more common among different ethnicities, for example, Black Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi men have a considerably higher prevalence of diabetes than the general population (BHF, 2010).
Family history: You are more likely to develop various medical conditions if someone in your family has it or has had it in the past.
What can I do to lower my risk of heart disease?
Whatever age you may be, you are never too young – or old – to focus on heart health. Prevention of heart disease (or cardiovascular disease) means making intelligent and informed decisions that will aid you for the rest of your life. Anyone at any age can benefit from these simple ways of keeping your heart healthy.
All age groups:
Health and age are extremely closely linked, so to get all the benefits all age groups are recommended to do these things:
The choice of food you have means there is a huge variety of healthy foods you can incorporate into your diet. Most adults still don’t consume the recommended daily amount of fibre. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat and salt. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish, nuts, and legumes. Limit your sugar intake and sweetened drinks.
|Keep cholesterol levels low:
High cholesterol levels in your arteries can clog them up quickly and increase the risk of atherosclerosis or heart attacks. In your 20s-40s good lifestyle changes can help you reduce cholesterol levels. However, as you keep getting older medicines can help you if needed.
It is recommended to do 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity such as walking or 1.25 hours of vigorous activity such as running/jogging per week. Other activities include muscle strengthening exercises targeting legs, hips, back, abdomen, shoulders, and arms.
|Limit alcohol consumption:
Even when you are young alcohol has strong effects on you beyond decreasing your inhibitions and helping you have a good time. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure, increase risk of mouth or oesophagus cancer and lead to pancreatitis. People also tend to forget that it is extra unneeded calories that may increase your weight over time.
|Get plenty of sleep:
Ensure that you have good sleeping habits. If you experience sleeping problems talk to your health provider as frequent issues may increase the likelihood of heart disease. This is because not enough sleep may affect your blood pressure, diabetes and eating habits leading to weight gain.
If you smoke it might be time to quit! Cigarettes increase your blood pressure and increase your likelihood of heart attack or stroke. Your health provider should be able to offer you advice on the best ways to quit smoking.
|Keep a healthy weight:
Being overweight or obese increases the stress on your heart and as a result the risk for heart disease. This is because higher weight has been linked to the previous issues mentioned above – high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Regular exercise can help you keep your weight down and reduce the risks of developing health issues that may affect your heart health.
|Manage stress levels:
Stress has been linked to heart disease in many ways. It can raise your blood pressure but may also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, heavy drinking or excessive eating. Read our blog about high-stress positions such as CEOs and how work stress may affect your health.
|Control blood pressure:
High blood pressure is a major factor that leads to heart disease. Check your blood pressure regularly – once a year for most adults, more if you are known to have high blood pressure. Certain lifestyle changes can help you control or prevent high blood pressure.
Having diabetes has been shown to double your risk of diabetes-related heart disease. This is because high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control your heart. So, if someone in your family has diabetes, it is important to get tested and keep it under control.
What to do in your 20s?
Making smart decisions from an early age ensures you are ahead of the game. During this age when most young people explore and find themselves, don’t forget to find a doctor and have regular wellness exams.
It is not just unhealthy people who need doctors. Be active and avoid smoking.
What to do in your 30s?
At around this age, most people usually start to build their families or establish their careers. Ensure that you are around for a long time by including your family in your heart health plans. Spend more time off the couch and being active.
This is also a good age to take an interest in your family history. Learn about relatives who may have some health issues as that could mean you are at higher risk. Keep your doctor informed so that any help that is needed can be provided and maybe start having regular health assessments done.
Finally, as your career may be taking off, so too might your stress levels. Manage stress by being mindful of your body and mental health.
What to do in your 40s?
If you have not been on top of your heart health, it is not too late. Healthy choices can still improve your heart in the long run. Consult your healthcare provider to understand what steps you need to take to make the right lifestyle changes – diet, exercise, weight.
On top of that, make sure you have healthy sleep habits and have your blood sugar checked. This is to serve as a baseline for the future so that you can see any issues that may present themselves early. Health assessments are a great way to get ahead of any potential issues in the future regarding your health.
What to do in your 50s?
Learning the warning signs of heart attacks or stroke is beneficial in case of emergency for yourself, your family, or friends.
At this age, it is also important to follow the advice of your healthcare provider if you have been diagnosed with any problems. Alternatively, a full-body check may help you have peace of mind about your health because it would give you a full picture of your health.
Heart disease incidence rise with age, especially from 50. This is the opportune time to catch any problems that may be developing and get them sorted before they become dangerous.
Echelon Health – Health Assessments
Of course, everyone wants to live a long and healthy life with their loved ones undisturbed by disease or illness. Unfortunately, most of us may not recognise that something is wrong until symptoms become apparent, at which point it could be too late.
However, thanks to the new innovative technology in MRI, CT and Ultrasound preventive health assessments can be carried out to detect and discover many diseases at the earliest stage, before it has a chance to establish fully.
Many diseases are highly preventable in a lot of cases if caught early enough; Echelon Health screens for and detects up to 94% of diseases that lead to premature death.
Why is early detection important?
According to the World Health Organisation, most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented through addressing lifestyle changes. It is important to detect cardiovascular disease as early as possible to manage the issues effectively.
When it comes to other diseases it is also imperative to screen regularly to prevent them (Cancer Research UK, 2021):
- More than 9 in 10 bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than five years if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
- More than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive their disease for at least five years if caught at the earliest stage compared to around 15% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of the disease.
- 90% of women diagnosed with the earliest stage ovarian cancer survive the disease for at least five years, compared to around 5% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of ovarian cancer.
- More than 80% of lung cancer patients will survive for at least a year if diagnosed at the earliest stage, compared to around 15% for people diagnosed with the most advanced stage of the disease.
Preventive Health Assessments are important even if you are symptom-free. At Echelon Health we offer many packages, including Healthy Heart in which the following tests are performed:
- Blood tests
- CT Coronary Angiogram
- CT Heart
These tests help detect various heart diseases including coronary heart disease, atheroma, and more. When it comes to our Healthy Heart assessment, we provide the gold standard. Nothing in the assessment is based on statistical risk analysis; the tests look inside the individual and provides them with personal insight into their own body.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact our team or check out our brochure for more information on all the health assessments offered by Echelon Health.
Let us help you protect your most valuable asset.
BHF (2021). Heart statistics. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics (Accessed 21/10/21).
ONS (2021). Total deaths in the UK in 2020 and deaths from heart attacks, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s and dementia, 2016 to 2020. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/totaldeathsintheukin2020anddeathsfromheartattacksheartdiseasecancerandalzheimersanddementia2016to2020 (Accessed 21/10/2021).
Blood Pressure UK (2021). Blood pressure facts and figures. Available at: http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/news/media-centre/blood-pressure-facts-and-figures/ (Accessed 21/10/2021).
ONS (2020). Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2019. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2019#adult-smoking-habits-in-the-uk-data (Accessed 21/10/2021).
Baker, C. (2021). Obesity Statistics. Available at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn03336/ (Accessed 21/10/2021).
Diabetes UK (2021). Diabetes Statistics. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics (Accessed 21/10/2021).
BHF (2017). Physical Inactivity Report 2017. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/statistics/physical-inactivity-report-2017 (Accessed 21/10/2021).
UKHSA (2020). New data reveals how our diets are changing over time. Available at: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/12/21/new-data-reveals-how-our-diets-are-changing-over-time/ (Accessed 21/10/2021).
BHF (2010). Ethnic Differences in Cardiovascular Disease 2010. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/statistics/ethnic-differences-in-cardiovascular-disease-2010 (Accessed 21/10/2021).