Heart disease is on the rise

Heart Disease

For the first time in 50 years the number of people under the age of 75 dying from heart and circulatory disease is on the rise. Find out if you are at risk and how to keep your heart healthy.

16/05/2019


Emily Condon
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

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The number of people who are dying from heart and circulatory diseases before they reach their 75th birthday is on the rise for the first time in 50 years according to the British Heart Foundation. The figures show an upward trend in deaths since 2014, with 42,384 people dying from conditions including heart attack and stroke in the UK before the age of 75 in 2017, compared to 41,042 three years earlier. The number of deaths caused by heart and circulatory diseases in under 65s is also increasing, peaking at 18,668 in 2017, up from 17,982 five years earlier. This represents a 4% rise in the last five years, compared to a 19% decline in the five years before. 

In the UK in 2017 28% of all heart and circulatory disease deaths were in people under 75, compared to 26% in 2012. Similarly, 12.2% of the people who died from heart and circulatory disease in 2017 were under 65, compared to 11.2% five years earlier. Between 2012 and 2017, the premature death rates for heart and circulatory disease in the UK fell by just 9%, compared to a fall of 25% in the five years before (2007-2012).

Millions of people are thought to be living with undiagnosed conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes that increases their risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke. Heart and circulatory diseases remain a leading cause of death in the UK. 

What is heart disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. It is usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries which increases the risk of blood clot formation. Heart disease is often referred to as the 'silent killer', with coronary heart disease being the single most common cause of death before 65 in the UK. Mistakenly, heart disease is often thought of as more of a male condition. Although it is true that men are more likely to get heart disease at a younger age than women, the number of cases and deaths from heart disease are actually spread fairly evenly across both sexes. 

What are the risk factors for heart disease? 

There are several risk factors for developing heart disease:

  • having a family history of early heart disease
  • having high cholesterol
  • being overweight or obese
  • having diabetes
  • smoking
  • eating an unhealthy diet high in saturated fats 
  • being physically inactive

Read more about how to optimise your diet in order to keep your heart healthy

How can I check if I am at risk of developing heart disease?

No one is perfect and it can be difficult to know if your lifestyle choices are having a negative impact on your health and increasing your risk of developing heart disease, especially as heart disease in its early stages has no obvious symptoms. Our Heart Disease Risk Check is perfect for anybody wishing to assess their risk of heart disease, particularly those with a family history of the condition or who know that their lifestyle might put them at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

What is included in the Heart Disease Risk Check?

The Heart Disease Risk Check looks at the main risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol and CRP-hs which is a measure of damaging inflammation.

1. Cholesterol status

The cholesterol status tests for triglycerides which are fatty particles found in the blood.

  • LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) is often referred to as the 'bad' cholesterol as these lipoproteins carry cholesterol, triglycerides and other fats to various tissues throughout the body. Too much LDL cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to accumulate on artery walls, potentially leading to the development of heart disease. 
  • HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) which is often referred to as the 'good' cholesterol, is thought to have a protective role against heart disease risk as these lipoproteins remove fat from the arteries.
  • Non-HDL cholesterol, a measure of all the cholesterol in your blood that is not HDL cholesterol. This shows the levels of the 'bad' cholesterol that may eventually cause heart disease or a heart attack. Non-HDL cholesterol is thought to give a better indication of cardiovascular risk than focussing on LDL cholesterol alone.
  • The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL is more indicative than a total cholesterol result alone to find out whether your cholesterol levels are healthy. This ratio should be as low as possible.

2. Inflammation marker CRP-hs

C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is a marker used to assess whether there is inflammation in the body, however, it does not identify where the inflammation is located. A High Sensitivity CRP (CRP-hs) test is used to detect low-level inflammation in the body which is thought to damage blood vessels. Raised levels of CRP in the body increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, a heart attack or stroke. 

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Heart disease is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but for many people it can be largely prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle. A less than ideal result may not be all doom and gloom. The good news is your risk can be decreased by making healthier choices and a Heart Disease Risk Check gives you the perfect tool to monitor your progress to see how your changes are improving your health. 


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