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Men’s Health: Knowing your Heart Age

The ability of an adult male to live well into his 80s is not uncommon in today’s developed world. Ongoing advancements in medical diagnoses, treatment, and care along with a greater knowledge of how to live a long, healthy life have created an environment where longevity is more the norm than the alternative. However, men still face risks of developing serious medical issues relating to their heart health. Among men aged 50 to 64, heart disease was reported as the leading cause of death, accounting for more than 5,000 fatalities in the UK throughout 2013. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death among men between the ages of 65 and 79 and those 80 years and older, and the second leading cause for men aged 35 to 49. With the prevalence of heart disease among adult men, new initiatives have been developed to bring necessary awareness to what causes the disease and how it can be prevented.

Recently, NHS Choices, Public Health England, and the British Heart Foundation designed and implemented a new tool to help individuals in the UK better understand their heart health. With the Know Your Heart Age assessment, individuals can complete a short test online that provides the following important information:

  • The age of the heart compared to the individual’s actual age
  • The effects of lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels on heart health
  • Advice for how to decrease heart age through lifestyle and health choices

Gaining insight into the well-being of the heart at any age is crucial for men to be able to take steps toward preventing the leading cause of death. However, it is also necessary to recognise the most common factors that cause heart conditions and the prevalent risks associated with the health issue among adult men.

Heart Disease Culprits

Heart disease is the result of a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries that support the heart, creating a situation where blood cannot easily flow to the heart or back out to the vital organs in the body. When heart disease develops over time, men can experience a heaviness in their chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, and confusion. For some, fluid accumulating in the body tissue leads to swelling that does not easily subside. Heart disease may ultimately lead to a heart attack – a condition where cholesterol builds up in the arteries and eventually leads to a blocking of blood vessels. Each of these conditions, when left undiagnosed or untreated, can result in severe medical issues or death in men of any age.

Most heart disease is linked to a lifetime of unhealthy choices, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, or smoking. However, for some men, the cause of heart disease is correlated with diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Men who have a family member under the age of 55 with coronary heart disease, or CHD, experience a higher risk of developing heart disease as they age.

Action Items for Prevention

There are several steps men can take to help reduce the risk of heart disease, although some recent research points to a prevalent issue when the health condition first presents. According to a team of solicitors that works with misdiagnosis cases in A&E, one in three individuals is misdiagnosed when they present to a medical professional with a heart attack. Instead of receiving the correct diagnosis when the signs of heart disease first appear, patients are given unnecessary or inadequate treatment for an incorrect health issue. When this takes place, the effects of heart disease and a resulting heart attack can be fatal. It is important for men to recognise the symptoms of heart disease and press their healthcare provider when the issues arise.

In addition to realising the risk of misdiagnosis, men can focus on shifting their behaviour toward a healthier lifestyle. Giving up smoking and excessive alcohol intake, getting regularly scheduled exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet can all help in the fight against heart disease among men. Taking the few minutes to test one’s heart age with the new assessment available online is a simple step toward understanding the strength and health of the heart, and asking for an in-depth heart health screening during the next visit to the doctor is an important piece of the puzzle. The combination of these tactics along with education about heart disease and its causes helps men reduce their risk of developing heart disease as they age.

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