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Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 12:06 GMT
England's heart health getting worse

The English are more likely to have heart problems

Cardiovascular disease is again on the rise in England, a major government-backed survey concludes.

The previous health survey found that heart disease and stroke were falling, but the latest, published on Tuesday, shows a reversal in that trend.

Risk factor: Drinking
Men still drinking twice as much as women
20% of women in lowest social class drink more than 14 units a week
A quarter of men in lowest social class had drunk at least eight units in one day in the last week
It also shows that, despite strenuous health education efforts, the English are taking less care of themselves, eating, drinking and smoking more.

Welcoming the survey, health minister Yvette Cooper said it reinforced the need for urgent action to cut the death toll from heart and circulation problems.

Risk factor: Smoking
28% of men smoked
27% of women smoked - this is rising
42% of men in lowest income households smoke
She said: "These latest figures show that men on below average income have twice the chance of ischaemic heart disease or stroke as men on above average income.

"Health inequalities like these are unfair and unacceptable."

Overall, the report makes depressing reading, with few areas of improvement.

The prevalence of heart disease and stroke rose from 7.1% of men to 8.5% between 1994 and 1998. In women the rise was from 5.2% to 6.2%.

Other key findings include:
  • Alcohol consumption up among women
  • Increase in smoking in those aged 16 to 24
  • Obesity up in both men and women
  • Untreated high blood pressure down

Social class plays a big role in the likelihood of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

Only one in 20 men in the top socio-economic class had cardiovascular disease, compared to more than one in 10 in the lowest.

Risk factor: Diet
Obesity increased in both men and women - one in five women is now obese
18% of men and 22% of women have raised cholesterol levels
63% of men are classed as 'overweight'
The prevalence of poor diets, low in fibre and high in fat, was higher in manual social class households and lower income households.

Obesity, smoking, drinking, high blood pressure and lack of exercise are all contributory factors to general poor health, as well as cardiovascular disease.

Hormone replacement therapy for women (HRT) is thought to have a protective effect against heart disease, although this wears off once a woman stops taking the treatment.

In England, 39% of women aged 45 to 54, and 41% aged 55 to 64 take HRT, although those in the higher socio-economic brackets were more likely to be taking it.

The numbers with blood pressure above the latest guidelines on hypertension are staggering
Professor Sir Charles George, British Heart Foundation
The government's health target is to reduce coronary heart disease, stroke and related illnesses by at least two-fifths by 2010.

They are due to publish a "national service framework" which will set out the minimum standards of care which heart patients can expect to receive.

Professor Sir Charles George, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation said: "It clearly demonstrates how, both individually and as a nation, we are still failing to tackle many of the key risk factors for coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the UK.

"The numbers with blood pressure above the latest guidelines on hypertension are staggering."

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See also:
17 Oct 99 |  Health
Milburn tackles 'big killers'
02 Dec 99 |  Health
North-south health divide 'widening'
27 Sep 99 |  Health
Health inequalities 'kill thousands'
03 Nov 99 |  Health
UK misses healthy eating target
09 Nov 99 |  Health
Obesity shortens life by four years
30 Nov 99 |  Health
Children's diet better in 1950s

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