Despite our growing awareness of health, fitness, and the effects of diet on our bodies, health complications such as heart disease and diabetes are on the rise. What were once considered illnesses that are more likely to effect the older generation are now becoming more common amongst younger people, too. Research suggests that this is largely due to poor diet and a lack of exercise, resulting in high levels of obesity.
Particularly concerning is the link between type 2 diabetes; cases of which have increased significantly among under 25s, and heart disease. This rise, according to Public Health England, could lead to there being five million diabetics in the UK by 2035, 39,000 of whom may suffer a heart attack. According to NHS research, type 2 diabetes actually increases the risk of heart disease by 48%.
Links Between Diabetes and Heart Disease
The links between diabetes and heart disease come down to obesity and high blood sugar levels, leading to an increase in fatty deposits building up in the arteries. As such, diabetes sufferers are much more likely to suffer from heart disease at an earlier age.
Heart Disease Prevention
Prevention of heart disease lies in maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle, no matter how old you are. Even those in middle-age can make changes to their diet and lifestyle which can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart failure.
Everyone can follow just a few basic steps to increase their heart health:
- Be more active – try doing more cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or running. An older person with a higher risk of heart disease may need to increase their level of activity in order to reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. On average, 30 minutes a day of brisk walking can help to increase your overall fitness levels. It is also recommended that you include at least one session of strength training within your weekly exercise routine.
- Try a heart healthy diet – this would include reducing your sugar, saturated fats and salt intake. You should avoid things like fried foods and red meat, but try to increase your consumption of wholegrains, fruits and vegetables.
- Lose weight – Obesity is a leading cause of heart disease, so bringing your weight down is a perfect first step to reducing your risk of heart disease. Research has shown that by losing as little as 5lbs, we can start to reduce the pressure on our hearts.
- Quit smoking – Although many people choose to cut down on smoking rather than quitting altogether, research has found that even smoking just one cigarette a day can increase the risk of heart disease by 48%-57%.
Fighting Heart Disease
No matter your age or level of fitness, taking some steps to reduce your risk of heart related illnesses is a good idea, no matter how old you are. If you would like further information or are worried that you may be experiencing symptoms of heart disease, you can talk to your GP.
You can also find information and support from the British Heart Foundation or call their Helpline on 0300 330 3311. The Heart Helpline allows you to speak to a Cardiac Nurse, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
Diabetes sufferers can also find help and information on the Diabetes UK website.