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Get clued up on heart disease

Your heart beats up to 100,000 times each day, pumping blood that contains oxygen and essential nutrients to every part of your body. It’s your body’s engine, so it’s well worth looking after.

The biggest danger to your heart is cardiovascular disease. This includes all the diseases that affect your heart and circulation. Getting clued up about it is a sure fire way to taking steps to protect your heart. To help you, we’ve taken a look at some lesser-known facts about cardiovascular disease– as well as debunking some popular myths.

Dr Asif Qasim - Heart disease
Heart disease - symptoms, diagnosis and prevention


  • The facts about cardiovascular disease The facts about cardiovascular disease

    • Cardiovascular disease includes angina, heart attack and stroke, as well as conditions which affect your blood vessels, such as peripheral arterial disease.
    • Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer in the UK. Each year, more people are killed by cardiovascular disease than any other health condition. But on a positive note, most deaths from cardiovascular disease among people aged under 75 are preventable, which means you can do something about it.
    • If something goes wrong with your heart, it can also affect other parts of your body. For example, high blood pressure is a risk factor for other serious health conditions, such as chronic kidney disease and dementia.
    • Improvements in treatments for heart disease have helped reduce death rates, but changes in lifestyles have had an impact too. About forty years ago, smoking rates were much higher and people also had more saturated fats in their diet.
    • Heart disease doesn't just affect men. You may be surprised to know that roughly equal numbers of men and women are living with the condition in the UK.
    • Although your risk of heart disease increases as you get older, you can be affected at any age. Most importantly, the lifestyle choices you make when you’re younger will impact your risk later on in life – so get into healthy habits early on.
    • Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. Smoking causes one in 10 people to develop heart disease. It also makes you six times more likely to have a fatal heart attack compared to people who don’t smoke. Speak to your pharmacist or GP for more advice about how to stop smoking.
    • Contrary to popular belief, stress isn’t a direct risk factor for heart disease, although it can affect your risk of developing the condition. It’s the way you deal with stress that can put you at risk – for instance, smoking, drinking to excess or eating unhealthily. Feeling stressed can also increase your blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
    • Although some research suggests that drinking alcohol in moderation may offer some protection for certain people, there are far safer ways of looking after your heart. Drinking too much alcohol can be harmful for your heart – so it’s important to stay within your limits.
    • High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two things to keep an eye on. You often don’t know you have them until you have a routine screening test, or develop symptoms of heart disease. Limiting the saturated fat in your diet and keeping active are two ways you can help control your blood pressure and cholesterol. Aim to do at least 150 minutes of exercise across five days of the week.

    You can start right now by making some healthier choices for your heart. Small changes to your diet and an exercise routine are great ways to get started. Start small but think big. If you smoke, your pharmacy or GP can help you stop, and we’ve got some information about the options available to you as well. Remember, it’s never too late to start looking after your heart.

  • Worried about your heart health?

    Get a picture of your current health and potential future health risks with a Bupa health assessment. Find out more today.

  • Resources Resources

    Further information


    • Sherwood L. Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems. 8th ed. USA: Brooks/Cole; 2013:305 ̶ 10
    • How your heart works. The British Heart Foundation., accessed 10 February 2014
    • Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). The World Health Organization., accessed 10 February 2014
    • Prevention of cardiovascular disease. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2010.
    • Coronary heart disease statistics. A compendium of health statistics. The British Heart Foundation, 2012.
    • The challenge of cardiovascular disease ̶ quick statistics. The World Health Organization., accessed 10 February 2014
    • Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010. The World Health Organization, 2010.
    • Hypertension. Clinical management of primary hypertension in adults. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2011.
    • Cardiovascular disease risk assessment and management. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. published December 2008
    • Coping with stress. How to manage your stress and help your heart. The British Heart Foundation., published 25 November 2013.
    • Landsbergis PA, Dobson M, Koutsouras G et al et al. Job strain and ambulatory blood pressure: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Am J Public Health 2013; 103(3):e61 ̶ 71. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301153
    • Briasoulis A, Agarwal V, Messerli FH et al. Alcohol consumption and the risk of hypertension in men and women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Hypertens 2012; 14(11):792 ̶ 8. doi:10.1111/jch.12008
    • Alcohol and heart disease., accessed 13 February 2014
    • Simon C, Everitt H, Van Dorp F. Oxford handbook of general practice. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010: 182 ̶ 3, 252 ̶ 3, 260 ̶ 261
    • High HDL Cholesterol (Hyperalphalipoproteinemia). Medscape., accessed 11 February 2014
    • Start active, stay active. A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers Department of Health, 2011.
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