Cardiovascular Disease is the general term given to a group of medical conditions which affect your heart or blood vessels. Commonly, according to the NHS, it is associated with the build-up of fatty deposits inside your arteries, and an increased risk of blood clots.
It can also be linked to damage within your brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes. Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death and disability here in the UK, accounting for 25% of all deaths in the country.
Cardiovascular Disease - The Facts
Other worrying facts, produced by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), include:
- Cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly 150,000 deaths each year.
- That's an average of 420 people each day - one every three minutes.
- Around 42,000 people under the age of 75 die in the UK from the condition.
- Today, 540 people will go to hospital due to a heart attack.
- Today, 180 people will die from coronary heart disease.
Currently, there are around seven million people living with Cardiovascular disease, with 3.5 million male cases and 3.5 million female cases. Despite its severity, people stand a good chance of preventing these conditions if they follow a healthy lifestyle.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Here are just five examples of the lifestyle changes you can make.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death and disability here in the UK, accounting for 25% of all deaths in the country."
Smoking is not only linked to cardiovascular disease, but also to several other serious medical conditions. Each year, around 96,000 people will die from a condition which was caused by smoking. Did you know that you're twice as likely to have a heart attack if you're a smoker, compared to those who have never smoked?
It's important that you stop smoking if you're going to protect yourself from coronary heart disease, strokes, and a variety of life-threatening cancers. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, which causes a build-up of fatty deposits and the narrowing of the artery.
Smoking also makes your heart work much harder due to the reduction of oxygen that it causes. Your heart will also beat faster and you're blood pressure will rise due to the nicotine contained within cigarettes. Your blood is also more likely to clot due to smoking.
Taking part in regular exercise is very important if you're to remain fit and healthy. The NHS suggests that adults take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Examples of this include cycling, water aerobics, and hiking.
Alongside this, you should also aim to complete strength exercise on two or more days a week, working your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. Examples include lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups, and yoga.
If you're new to exercise it's important that you visit your doctor for a health check, just to ensure that you understand your limits and the risks involved if you take part in certain activities. To begin with, you can break your exercises up into 10-minute workouts.
Everyday activities and movement can also count. Take a step back and think; rather than driving to the shop, can I take a nice walk? It's important to keep moving as much as we can during the day, especially if you work within an office environment.
Being overweight or classed as obese can increase your risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and Type 2 diabetes. For those who may be unaware, cholesterol is a fatty substance that is carried around your body by proteins. Too much can lead to fatty material building up in your artery walls.
Being overweight puts extra strain on your heart, causing it to work much harder than it should do. To see if you need to lose weight, you can work out your Body Mass Index (BMI) and your waist measurement. To work out your BMI you will need to know your height and weight. Check your BMI using the BHF's calculator.
Your shape can also affect your risk, as fat around your middle can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. That's because these fat cells produce toxic substances that cause damage to your body.
You can work out if you're at increased risk by simply measuring your waist. Find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips, and measure around your middle at a point mid-way between these. For many people, this will be at the level of the tummy button.
For men, you're at an increased risk level if you're over 94cm, and have a severe risk if you're over 102cm. Women are at an increased risk if they're over 80cm and at a severe risk level if they're over 88cm.
You can help to maintain a healthy weight by taking part in regular exercise, as previously mentioned, as well as sticking to a balanced diet.
A balanced diet, full of nutrients, is essential if you're going to look after your heart. For the best results, you should aim to eat foods which have lower levels of fat, salt and sugar as much as possible. You should try to include:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables.
- Some milk and dairy products.
- some meat, fish, eggs, and beans.
- Plenty of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta - aim for wholegrain versions as much as possible.
A well-balanced diet should include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, whilst ensuring that you don't consume more than 6g of salt each day.
Much like smoking, alcohol can have a negative effect on your heart and general health. Drinking too much can cause high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, damage to your heart muscle, and conditions such as liver disease and cancer.
It also contains a high number of calories, which can cause you to gain weight and increase your overall risk of cardiovascular disease. Men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week and should avoid drinking it on a daily basis.
A unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a pint of normal strength lager or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine (125ml) is about 1.5 units. Cutting down, or stopping altogether, can have lead to some great positives:
- Your general mood may improve. Heavy drinking has a strong link with depression.
- You'll get more sleep. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply.
- Your immune system will get stronger. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.
Your doctor will be able to give you help if you're finding it difficult to cut down your drinking.
Being effected by a form of cardiovascular disease qualifies you for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm system. HMRC state that a product that has been “designed or adapted for a disability” qualifies for VAT exemption.
To qualify for VAT Exemption, you need to have a long-term illness, a terminal illness, or a disability.
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Note: we updated this blog on 21/12/2017 to include the latest information. Originally published 26/07/2021.