Around one in 10 men aged 50 have a heart age that’s 10 years older, increasing their risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.
That’s according to new analysis from Public Health England’s (PHE) ‘Heart Age Test’ which is designed to show how many years we can expect to live healthily without heart problems.
Every month, 7,400 people die from heart disease or stroke. A quarter of deaths are of people under 75 and most of these can be prevented, PHE said.
The health body is inviting adults to take three minutes out of their day to take the Heart Age Test online in order to get clued up about heart health.
PHE is encouraging the public to be as familiar with their heart age as they are with their weight or height.
Analysis of 1.2 million test results to date shows the majority of people (64%) with a heart 10 years older than their actual age are male.
A new version of the test forms part of PHE’s One You campaign, which supports adults in making simple changes towards a longer, happier life. People who take the test will be referred to apps, advice and resources to help them eat and drink better, get active, and quit smoking to improve their heart health.
The campaign runs throughout September in partnership with cardiovascular charities the British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association and Blood Pressure UK. For the first time, the test will direct users to their nearest blood pressure station if they do not know theirs, as those with high blood pressure are more at risk of heart disease or stroke.
Associate Professor Jamie Waterall, lead for cardiovascular disease prevention at PHE, said: “We should all aim for our heart age to be the same as our real age - addressing our risk of heart disease and stroke should not be left until we are older.
“The Heart Age Test is really important as it gives an immediate idea of heart attack and stroke risk, with no doctor’s appointment needed.”
While trends have recently shown incidence of cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke) declining in recent years, it is still the main cause of death amongst men and the second highest cause of death in women.
Around half of those taking the test since it launched in February 2015 did not know their blood pressure numbers. High blood pressure is often symptomless and according to PHE, 5.6 million people in England currently have high blood pressure but do not know it.
Katherine Jenner, chief executive officer of Blood Pressure UK, said: “We’re pleased to be teaming up with the Heart Age Test to create an easier way to put people in control of their health. Getting your blood pressure tested in your nearest pharmacy or health centre can be the first important step to prolonging your life.”
Having a high heart age increases the risk of serious health issues including dementia, heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney disease and diabetes. Making simple changes, like doing more activity or quitting smoking, can reduce this risk and PHE is urging adults to lower their heart age before it is too late.
Other risk factors include excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet and family history of premature heart disease.
Dr Mike Knapton, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s extremely worrying that so many people don’t know their blood pressure or cholesterol levels, as these silent conditions can lead to a deadly heart attack or stroke if untreated.
“The Heart Age Test is a quick and easy way to estimate the number of years you will live in good health. If you are concerned by the age of your heart, make an appointment with your GP.”