07 Feb, 2024

Lesa Maginn
Lesa Maginn

Did you know?

• 7.6 million people in the UK are living with heart and circulatory diseases.
• Every 3 minutes someone dies from a heart or circulatory disease.
• Every 5 minutes someone is admitted to hospital due to a stroke.

What can affect heart health?

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 (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.
It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes.

Causes of CVD (from NHS UK) 

The exact cause of CVD isn't clear, but there are lots of things that can increase your risk of getting it. These are called "risk factors."

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most important risk factors for CVD. If your blood pressure is too high, it can damage your blood vessels.

  • Smoking and other tobacco use is also a significant risk factor for CVD. The harmful substances in tobacco can damage and narrow your blood vessels.

  • High cholesterol can cause your blood vessels to narrow and increase your risk of developing a blood clot.

  • Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes your blood sugar level to become too high. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels, making them more likely to become narrowed.

  • Inactivity from not exercising regularly can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and increases the risk of becoming overweight.

  • If you have a family history of CVD, your risk of also developing it is increased.

  • Increased risk of CVD is also associated with people from Asian, Black African, or African Caribbean backgrounds alongside other factors such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but it can often largely be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle.

What can you do to look after your heart?

  1. Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in saturated and trans fats.

  2. Stay active: Regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve your overall health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

  3. Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of heart disease. Losing weight through a healthy diet and exercise can help reduce this risk. The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. You can access the NHS BMI calculator here.

  4. Quit smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Quitting smoking can help reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. You can find your nearest Stop Smoking service here.

  5. Manage stress: Chronic stress can increase your risk of heart disease. Find healthy ways to manage your stress, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.

  6. Get enough sleep: Poor sleep can increase your risk of heart disease. Adults should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night. The British Heart Foundation suggests that the golden hour for going to sleep is between 10pm and 11pm.

  7. Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol: High blood pressure and cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. Regular check-ups with your doctor can help you monitor these levels and take steps to reduce your risk.

  8. Limit alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to weight gain, both of which can increase your risk of heart disease. The Chief Medical Officers recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week regularly. You can find out more information on alcoholic drinks and units here and here.

Calculate your heart's age

You can use this calculator to give you an idea of how healthy your heart is by comparing your real age to your heart age.

Did you know?

If you are aged between 40 - 74 you could be eligible* for a free NHS Health Check. The NHS Health Check is a free check-up of your overall health. It can also tell you whether you're at risk of getting certain health problems such as:

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Stroke

If you are aged 40 to 74 and do not have a pre-existing health condition, you should be invited to an NHS Health Check by your local GP or local council every 5 years.

If you think you are eligible* but have not been invited, contact your GP surgery to find out if they offer NHS Health Checks or contact your local council to find out where you can get an NHS Health Check in your area.

For more information on pre-existing health conditions and eligibility visit: