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Heart Health | Flickr.com

Heart Health | Flickr.com

According to a recent study, four out of five Britons have hearts that are far older than they should be which puts people at a greater risk of early death through heart disease.

“These are really alarming figures that will cause great anxiety for many,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners. “But rather than people panicking, we hope this well-intentioned initiative by Public Health England will serve as a wake-up call for us all to be more aware of our general health and prompt changes that will help us to live longer and healthier lives.”

Professor Jamie Waterall, the national lead for cardiovascular disease at Public Health England, agreed. “It’s worrying that so many people are at risk of dying unnecessarily from heart attack and stroke. [But] I was unsurprised … given that we have a population that’s becoming more obese and we have major problems with things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, alcohol and physical inactivity,” he said. “We need the public to understand the impact that all that’s having on their risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Clearly, many people need to make major changes to their lifestyles.”

Among those changes that Waterall recommends are eating healthier and taking greater responsibility for their own individual health by keeping track of their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Ashleigh Doggett agreed and suggested that people make “simple lifestyle changes such as increasing physical exercise, eating a healthy Mediterranean diet and cutting back on alcohol [in order to] help reduce your heart age. If people are concerned about their heart age, they should speak to their GP.”

Up to 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes are caused by preventable causes such as smoking or unhealthy eating habits, and even more could be prevented through regular checkups and any necessary preventative medical care. Healthier habits alone are estimated to be able to save up to 50 lives a day in England.

“It’s never too late – or too early – to make changes,” Waterall said. “The number one thing to do is quit smoking, if you are a smoker. But taking more exercise, moderating your alcohol intake, losing weight and taking control of your blood pressure and cholesterol will all help.”

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