With almost 20 years in the medical profession, Dr Luke James, Medical Director at Bupa Health Clinics applauds the rise in awareness on heart health over the years, but thinks there’s more we could do to reduce our risk of heart disease. He says: "For most people, the heart is something they take for granted every day – it's an amazing organ which works non-stop for your entire life. So why not make your heart's job a bit easier?”
“To do that, it's vital to understand what heart disease is. We see patients in our clinics everyday who are unclear of the different types and have misconceptions about their own risk of developing a cardiovascular problem.”
Here are the top three myths we hear in our health clinics:
MYTH 1: “I’m a woman... it only affects men, right?”
Heart disease kills the same amount of women as it does men, but women are more likely to develop heart problems later in life. People often perceive cardiovascular disease as something that mainly affects men because high levels of oestrogen in the female body protect them from many heart problems until menopause.
Just like men, smoking, weight gain, high cholesterol and low activity levels throughout life all contribute to the risk of heart disease. We would recommend everyone assesses their risk, but men and women around the age of 45 really do benefit from undertaking a review of their risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Getting a coronary calcium CT which can identify potential issues and allow patients to manage their risks in a much more personalised way, could also be worthwhile.
MYTH 2: “I’m ok as none of my family have ever had heart problems.”
We often see patients dismissing the risk of heart disease because there is no family history. While there is no denying the role of hereditary factors, lifestyle also plays an enormous role in developing a cardiovascular condition.
There are great opportunities available for people to really understand their own risk of heart disease, and manage their lifestyles accordingly. A coronary assessment is an obvious option, but even a general health assessment which looks at lifestyle influences is a good place to start. Regularly checking cholesterol levels and blood pressure are also great ways to keep on top of your heart health, whether you have a family history or not.
MYTH 3: “I’ll worry about it later, it’s a problem for elderly people.”
Over a quarter of people who die from cardiovascular disease everyday are under the age of 75. With heart disease being the UK’s single biggest killer, heart health is not something we should be putting off until we’re older.
With a better understanding of heart conditions, it’s clear that the way we live our lives each day, can have a positive effect on our heart’s health.. Dr Luke James shares his tips for keeping our tickers in good working order:
TIP 1: Eat right to improve good cholesterol:
The fact is that the more weight we carry, the higher our cholesterol can be and greater the risk of developing a cardiovascular problem becomes. Having a healthy weight is an absolute priority but it’s also helpful to know that there are two types of cholesterol – the good and the bad.
A healthy diet including beans and lentils, oats, garlic, onions, oily fish, avocado and olive oil can help you improve the good levels of cholesterol (HDL) in your body and reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. Switching to foods that are high in protein, choosing colourful fruit and vegetables and high fibre food can also help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and improve heart health.
TIP 2: Stub it out:
It is without doubt that smoking greatly increases the risk of heart disease, and here’s how. Smoking damages the lining of our arteries, which leads to a build-up of fatty material that narrows the artery. This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke. The most sensible tip is never to start but for those who do smoke, it’s best to visit a GP and find a method of quitting that suits you.
TIP 3: Check in:
A Bupa Health Clinic coronary health check is most suitable for men and women aged between 45 and 69. This health check looks for evidence of heart disease, identifies the main risk factors for each patient and offers practical advice about positive lifestyle changes.
The check involves several tests including a coronary CT scan, and includes a statistical risk of heart disease for your age, taking demographics into account. Lasting up to two hours, next steps are then discussed based on the calculated risk level and findings of the CT calcium scan.
TIP 4: Don’t stress
There has been a lot of discussion around the relationship between heart disease and stress and it can play a part. Someone who is stressed might drink more, over eat or start smoking to ease the tension.
Stress can also increase one’s blood pressure so it’s advisable to introduce stress relieving techniques to reduce the risk of health problems. Fresh air and a bit of light exercise to cleanse the mind for ten minutes a day can do wonders.
Physical activity can help reduce the risk of getting heart disease. Over time, this small amount of exercise a day can have long lasting positive effects on your health.
Bupa offers health assessments that give the body a full MOT, looking at a variety of factors including heart health, fitness, weight, musculoskeletal, blood sugar, liver function and more. Prices start at £180 – less than 50p a day spread across the year.
About Bupa Clinics:
- With more than 50 Bupa health clinics across the UK, we offer a range of trusted health services close to where people live and work.
- Bupa clinics are open to everyone, whether you have Bupa insurance or not.
- Our health and dental clinics offer a range of everyday health services from GP and physiotherapy appointments and health assessments to general, cosmetic and specialist dentistry.
- Bupa’s range of health assessments give people a snapshot of their health and help them make informed health and lifestyle changes.
- Our health assessments are designed to make sure people engage with their health before the assessment, and have continued support to meet their goals afterwards.
- Your Health Assessor will also help you set relevant goals, give you access to the Bupa Boost app to keep you on track and your advisor will call you in the months following to coach and help you. You'll also have 24/7 access to a GP for a whole year for yourself and family who live with you.
- Bupa clinics are on the high street across the country and offer: health assessments, health services like GP appointments, dental appointments including orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry, dermatology, physiotherapy, osteopathy and podiatry.