Hearts aged by poor life­styles

Lesotho Times - - Health -

MANY peo­ple find that their heart ages are older than their ac­tual ages. In the worst cases, men and women in their mid-40s had hearts typ­i­cal of 60-year-olds. The dis­par­ity puts them at far greater risk of car­diac ar­rest, stroke and dis­eases of old age.

Re­search by Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don is a stark re­minder of the dan­gers of obe­sity and lack of ex­er­cise.

Two thirds of Bri­tish adults are over­weight or obese — one of the worst rates in Europe. The find­ings are based on the re­sponses of 575,000 users of a heart age cal­cu­la­tor on the NHS Choices web­site.

The tool gives an es­ti­mate based on height, weight, date of birth, ex­er­cise lev­els and how much an in­di­vid­ual smokes or drinks.

The study found that 79 per cent of over30s had a heart at least a year older than their age.

A wor­ry­ing 89 per cent of men be­low 40 had un­healthy hearts, com­pared with just 41 per cent of women. The re­searchers said the lat­ter took bet­ter care of their health. One in seven adults had hearts ten years too old and for one in 14 the gap was 15 years.

Heart dis­ease is the na­tion’s big­gest killer, claim­ing 155,000 lives a year. But the UCL team be­lieves many of these deaths could be pre­vented with life­style changes. ‘There is too much high blood pres­sure, high choles­terol and di­a­betes which is driven by our be­hav­iours,’ said the Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion’s Mike Knap­ton, who was in­volved in the study.

‘We eat too much, do too lit­tle ex­er­cise and as a pop­u­la­tion we are more at risk of de­vel­op­ing heart dis­ease. Know­ing your heart age is vi­tal to tak­ing con­trol of your health. ‘You can start to make changes to help pro­tect your­self against cruel and life chang­ing events such as heart at­tack and stroke. ‘The younger you start mak­ing small but sig­nif­i­cant changes, the greater the re­turn on your in­vest­ment.’

The cal­cu­la­tor – or Heart Age Tool – was launched by the NHS last Fe­bru­ary to alert adults to their risk of heart dis­ease. The re­searchers say the re­sults are not nec­es­sar­ily representative of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion. Many users of the cal­cu­la­tor may be un­health­ier than av­er­age and were keen to find out the ages of their hearts. Pa­tients are also told if they are at risk of heart dis­ease through health checks of­fered to all adults aged 40 to 75. Many never at­tend the ap­point­ment and even if they do, may not take their GP’S ad­vice se­ri­ously.

Jo­hanna Ral­ston of the World Heart Fed­er­a­tion said: ‘With so many peo­ple find­ing their heart ages are older than their ac­tual ages, the Heart Age Tool is an ex­tremely use­ful wake-up call for peo­ple to im­ple­ment those sim­ple life­style changes that can im­prove their heart age and their well­be­ing.’

Jamie Wat­er­all of Pub­lic Health Eng­land said: ‘Even though you may not have symp­toms, hav­ing a heart age higher than your own age in­di­cates an in­creased risk of se­ri­ous ill­ness. ‘The tool gives an im­me­di­ate in­di­ca­tion of a per­son’s po­ten­tial risk and what they can start do­ing to re­duce it. For peo­ple over 40, the NHS Health Check presents an in­valu­able op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss your heart health with a pro­fes­sional.’

Al­most a mil­lion peo­ple have used the cal­cu­la­tor since it was launched 18 months ago but a new ver­sion, avail­able from today, will of­fer ad­vice on how to lower car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk and re­verse the age­ing of the heart. Re­search in Spain showed that giv­ing pa­tients a heart age re­sulted in blood pres­sure and weight re­duc­tions over 12 months in both men and women, as well as more peo­ple quit­ting smok­ing.

John Dean­field, a Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion pro­fes­sor of car­di­ol­ogy who led the de­vel­op­ment of the cal­cu­la­tor, said: ‘Our re­search shows that help­ing peo­ple to clearly un­der­stand their risk of heart dis­ease, and the life­style and med­i­ca­tion op­tions for low­er­ing it, can em­power them to make sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to their heart health with the po­ten­tial to last a life­time.’ — IOL

MANY peo­ple find that their heart ages are older than their ac­tual ages.

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