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Not So Health-Conscious Britain: Survey Finds Nearly Half Of East Midlanders Clueless About Heart Health

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Despite Britain becoming more health conscious nation only just under half of people in the East Midlands are still oblivious to basic heart health.

South Easterners were the most clued up on heart health scoring 55.6 per cent on the heart health test, whilst Northern Irish least knowledgable scoring just 38.2 per cent.

British fitness industry may be flourishing, but 72 per cent of Brits are still unaware how much exercise is needed to reduce the risk of cardiac diseases.

Greasy spoons may be under threat by today’s cappuccino culture, but heart disease is still one of Britain’s biggest killers, killing more than one in four people in the UK.

But despite the shocking statistics - and the rise of “clean eating” and quinoa and kale consciousness - a new study by AFIB Matters has revealed that Brits are still relatively clueless when it comes to basic heart health.

In fact, more than half of us (50.5 per cent) have poor knowledge on basic heart health, a study of 2,500 adults has found.

Worryingly, that figure is even lower for men – with the survey revealing that only 49.8 per cent of men are savvy on their heart health, compared to 51.5 per cent of women.

And despite our nation becoming increasingly health-conscious, ignorance toward heart health rings true across the country. AFIB Matter’s survey found that those in the South East were the most clued up on heart health, though they still only scored 55.6 per cent on their heart health test.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Northern Ireland, the land famous for its fried bread, Ulster Fry, was the most unknowing when it came to heart health, scoring a dismal 38.2 per cent. But despite offering the unique culinary delights of deep-fried Mars bars and sugary Irn-Bru, the Scots seemed to be much more aware of heart health, coming in the middle of the scoreboard, with just under half of respondents (48 per cent) demonstrating a good knowledge on the subject. East Midlanders scored 54.7 per cent on the heart health test.

AFIB Matters have created an infographic map to show how clued up Britons are on heart health across the country.

So what exactly should Brits know when it comes to heart health? Well, only 38.1 per cent of the 2,500 respondents questioned by AFIB Matters were able to say what our heart consists of (four heart chambers and four valves). Instead, 26.1 per cent of those surveyed believed the heart has two heart chambers and two valves, 22.8 per cent said that the heart has four heart chambers and two valves, and 13 per cent thought the heart has three heart chambers and three valves.

And though we may be spending more than ever on gym memberships and fitness products, AFIB Matter’s survey also revealed that only 28 per cent of Brits know how much weekly exercise is needed in order to reduce the risk of cardiac diseases, (150 minutes a week). The survey revealed that 17.4 per cent of Brits believed that 90 minutes was enough weekly exercise to reduce the risk of cardiac diseases, 11.9 per cent thought an hour per week would suffice, and shockingly, the majority of Brits (42.7 per cent) thought that just 30 minutes of exercise per week would keep the heart happy.

It turns out we should have paid more attention in science classes too, as the survey revealed that most Brits are also unaware of the heart’s basic functions: only 29.9 per cent of Brits knew that the heart pumps 4-5 litres of blood per minute, instead, 12.8 per cent of respondents thought it pumped 2-3 litres per minute, 23.8 per cent of Brits answered 6-7 litres, 15.8 per cent answered 8-9 litres, and 17.7 per cent answered 11-12 litres.

Similarly, AFIB Matter’s survey revealed that a shocking three quarters of Brits are clueless on the matter of blood pressure. 42.1 per cent of those surveyed admitted they thought a healthy blood pressure reading was 90 over 60 or less, 23.3 per cent thought a healthy blood pressure reading was 90 over 60 and less than 120 over 80, and surprisingly, 1 in 10 (10.1 per cent) thought that a healthy blood pressure reading was 140 over 90 or higher. Only a quarter (24.5 per cent) knew that a healthy blood pressure reading was more than 120 over 90 and less than 140 over 90.

There is great potential to improve health by avoiding certain risks like smoking and a poor diet, but it’s also important to understand that good heart health starts with awareness.

Heart diseases can come in many different forms – but one that has become much more common in the past 20 years is atrial fibrillation (AF), a heart condition that causes an irregular, and often rapid, heart rate, and potentially heart failure or stroke.

AF affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the UK, but according to AFIB Matter’s survey, only half of Brits (50.7 per cent) were aware of the disease, and knew that atrial fibrillation was a type of abnormal heart rhythm. Worryingly, 20.9 per cent thought AF was the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, 9 per cent thought it was an abnormality/defect with the structure of the heart, and 19.5 per cent thought it was when blood supply to the heart becomes restricted.

Over a third (37.6 per cent) of Brits knew that persistent atrial fibrillation means AF that lasts longer than seven days. 36 per cent actually thought it was when AF occurs despite the usage of drugs, 21 per cent believed it was when AF occurs more than once per month, and 5.4 per cent said that it is when AF is not treated for more than one year.

What’s more concerning is that almost a third of Brits did not know that atrial fibrillation could occur in all ages. 23.3 per cent believed it would only occur in people over 70 years old, and 5.1 per cent thought it was only occur in people over 40 years old. 4.3 per cent believed AF occurred particularly in young adults. Moreover, while 34 per cent of Brits knew that atrial fibrillation cannot cause hypertension, a distressing 20.4 per cent of Brits thought that AF couldn’t cause heart failure, 23.3 per cent didn’t think it would cause palpitations, and 22.3 per cent did not believe it would cause a stroke.

But while the majority of Brits were oblivious to heart health basics, they were aware of what constitutes a healthy body mass index (BMI). Interestingly, over half of Brits (53.8 per cent) knew that a BMI score of 20 would mean they were at a healthy weight and would not need to lose any weight. However, 18 per cent of those surveyed thought a BMI of 25 indicated a healthy weight and no need to lose weight, 16.8 per cent thought it was a BMI of 28, and even 11.3 per cent thought a BMI of 32 was low enough not to need to shed the pounds – when in actual fact, a BMI of 28 and over would be considered overweight.

Prof. Gregory Y. H. Lip (Birmingham, UK) from the AFIB Matters taskforce commented:

“An important aspect of lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases is managing health behaviours and other risk factors, such as diet, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol and ensuring 150 minutes of exercise a week.

We’re aware that many still need educating on the risks but we working towards creating public awareness about heart health and atrial fibrillation specifically. After all, atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm problem, and is associated with a 5 fold excess risk of stroke or death.”