10 percent of 50-year-old men have a heart of a 60-year-old

According to a recent warning issued by the Public Health England (PHE), for ten per cent of middle aged men with a poor lifestyle, hearts at fifty look like sixty year old hearts. In 2015, the NHS started a Heart Age Test. This was done to check if people were at risk of heart attack and stroke. This new warning from PHE comes from the analysis of the tests that people took.

Image Credit: Irenaphoto / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Irenaphoto / Shutterstock

The latest analysis report from the PHE includes results from 1.2 million middle aged men who took the Heart Age Test. Results revealed that around 10 percent of the 50-year-olds have a heart of a 60-year-old man. This suggests that they may die a decade before they should if their lifestyle continues in the present manner. Men fared much worse than women on the test, the results showed. For example of the 10 percent population that had a decade older heart, around 36 percent were women and most of them (64 percent) were men.

The PHE states that each month over 7400 people die of heart attacks or stroke and a fourth of these deaths are among persons aged less than 75 years. Although the numbers have declined in the recent years, heart disease related deaths are still the main reason for death among men and second leading cause of death among women. A simple measure to reduce these numbers of deaths would be to lower cholesterol and reduce the blood pressures and living a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise. This study shows that the hearts of these middle aged men are older than their actual ages. This raises their risk of getting health problems such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes.

Associate Professor Jamie Waterall, Lead for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, PHE, said the goal should be to keep the heart age same as the real age. This means that the time for action is as soon as possible before it’s too late. He added that the Heart Age Test provides an immediate idea about heart attack and risk of stroke without the need to visit a doctor. It is part of the One You campaign.

This week the PHE has stepped up and launched an up to date version of the Heart Age Test and has urged the population to take three minutes and take the test to check on their hearts. Once they have taken the test, they can be referred to advice and resources that can help them improve their lifestyles by making better food choices and quit smoking and excessive drinking as well as getting more active. It will also direct the users to the nearest blood pressure station if their blood pressure remains high because raised blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The PHE officials noted that nearly half of all the persons taking the test did not know their blood pressure prior to taking the test. This is “worrying” says Dr Mike Knapton, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation – not knowing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. He explained that these are often silent killers that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The campaign One You is running in collaboration with cardiovascular charities British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association and Blood Pressure UK this September. Katherine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK, also emphasized upon the need to get blood pressure checked as a first step in understanding the goals for a healthy life.

Heart disease risk reduction

Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when there is a build up of fatty substances in and around the walls of the arteries of the heart making them stiff and narrow. This restricts the blood flow to the heart muscles leading to a heart attack.

Some of the steps in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke include –

  • Getting more physically active with at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week as recommended.
  • Quitting smoking and excessive alcohol intake
  • Managing weight and eating right including more fibres, more fruits and vegetables, nuts and fish, less salt, sugars and trans and saturated fats
  • Getting tested regularly for blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
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