What's my risk of heart disease?

Rachel Carlyle

Heart and circulatory disease is still the UK number one killer, advancing years increase your risk, but what can you do to improve your chances against heart disease?

What's my risk of heart disease?

Age is an important risk factor, as is family history, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Smoking is significant: heart disease is 60 percent higher in smokers (and 25 percent higher in regular passive smokers).

High blood pressure is another big no-no, as is a high level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) because it builds up in the arteries.

Using HRT gives you a small increased risk in the first year.

Certain characteristics may predispose you to higher rates of coronary heart disease (CHD): being short and having a waist size above 40in for men and 35in for women.

Bizarrely, studies dating back to the Seventies show that people with diagonal creases on both ear lobes could be developing heart disease.

Is heart disease preventable?

Not totally, but giving up smoking, losing weight, taking exercise and treating high blood pressure and diabetes will drastically cut the risk.

Regular exercise is defined by the British Heart Foundation as 30 minutes of brisk walking, swimming or cycling five times a week.

There’s good and bad news on the drinking front: one or two units a day for men over 40 and post-menopausal women can protect the heart. But persistently drinking more than that raises your blood pressure.

The five portions of fruit and veg a day will protect your heart; the polyphenols they contain will balance the effects of bad cholesterol. Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated ones and eat oily fish.

What are the signs of heart disease?

Pain in the centre of the chest is the main sign and though it may be severe, it isn’t always and sometimes it’s felt more in the arms, neck or jaw. The person may also be breathless, vomiting, sweaty and pale. Dial 999 if in doubt.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.