A staggering 7.6 million people in the UK are living with some kind of heart and circulatory disease and 27% of all deaths in this country are caused by such diseases. There are 167,000 deaths from heart and circulatory disease every year in the UK, around 44,000 of which are premature (i.e. people under the age of 75). Keep reading to learn how to check your pulse, the risk factors for heart disease, and how to keep your heart healthy.
The term “heart and circulatory disease” refers to all diseases of the heart and circulation, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, vascular dementia and stroke. To put the figure into context, there are twice as many people living with heart and circulatory diseases in this country than the combined total for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, as the population ages and more people survive heart and circulatory events, the 7.4 million figure is predicted to rise.
Around 80% of people with heart and circulatory disease have at least one other health condition. However, the picture is not entirely negative. At the start of the 1960s, more than half of all UK deaths were caused by heart and circulatory diseases. According to the British Heart Foundation, since it was established in 1961, annual deaths from heart and circulatory diseases in this country have fallen by around a half.
Healthy heart rate
Most adults have a healthy resting heart rate of between 60 and 100bpm (beats per minute). Your heart rate goes up and down depending on what you are doing – when you are sleeping it is much slower than when you are walking or running, for example. To find your resting heart rate you need to have been resting for at least five minutes before checking your pulse.
If your heart rate is continuously above 120bpm or below 40bpm you should see a doctor to get it checked out. It may simply be that this is a normal rate for you or it may indicate possible heart or circulatory problems. The fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate is likely to be. For people who are very fit, a resting heart rate of 40-60bpm is common.
How to check your pulse
To check your pulse in your wrist, hold out your hand with your palm facing upwards and press the index and middle finger of your other hand on the inside of your wrist. You should be able to feel your pulse but, if not, try pressing a little harder or moving your fingers around. Count the number of beats you feel for 30 seconds and multiply the figure by two. This will give you your resting heartbeat per minute. If you check your pulse immediately after exercising it can give you an indication of your fitness level.
Risk factors for coronary heart disease
A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of developing a disease. Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will definitely go on to develop heart and circulatory disease but it means you may want to take steps to modify your lifestyle or take action to prevent or control early symptoms.
The risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases include:
- Obesity, particularly if you carry excess weight around your tummy.
- Smoking – smokers are nearly twice as have a heart attack as a person who has never smoked.
- High cholesterol – this is the level of fat in your blood. If there is an excess of cholesterol your risk of heart and circulatory diseases rises.
- High blood pressure, also called hypertension.
- Diabetes – the damage caused to your blood vessels increase the chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
- A sedentary lifestyle – being physically inactive can damage your heart muscle.
- Alcohol – drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can harm your heart and general health.
- A family history of heart or circulatory disease puts you at higher risk of developing the conditions yourself.
- Prolonged stress can also increase your risk of heart and circulatory problems.
How to keep your heart healthy
The figures on heart and circulatory diseases show how important it is to keep your heart healthy and stay well. This is particularly important if you have one or more risk factors.
Here are some important ways to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases:
- Eat a healthy balanced diet that is high in fibre and low in fat. Restrict your intake of salt and make sure you eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in line with government guidelines.
- Exercise – this will help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as maintaining a healthy weight.
- Give up smoking which can cause furring of the arteries (atherosclerosis), a leading cause of coronary thrombosis in people under the age of 50.
- Drink no more than the recommended amount of alcohol each week.
- If you have diabetes, keep your condition under control and see your doctor if your blood pressure increases above 130/80mmHg.
- Manage stress levels by finding a regular relaxation practise that works for you, whether it is walking in nature or mindfulness.
If you are concerned about your heart health or if you are experiencing worrying symptoms, London Heart Clinic can do a thorough assessment, diagnose any problems and recommend any preventative measures as well as possible treatments.