Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Monday, 8 September 2008 12:11 UK

Money worries 'may harm health'

A woman crying
Money worries may not just cause mental harm

The economic downturn could be bad news for our bodies, as well as our pockets, suggest specialists.

Britons are cutting back on expensive fruit and vegetables, and gym membership, claims a report by the Blood Pressure Association.

Some say they are drinking more alcohol than before the recent credit crunch.

The association is urging people to have their blood pressure checked for free this week at one of 3,000 locations across the UK.

It is clear that Britons are under pressure and this could have serious consequences
Professor Graham MacGregor
Blood Pressure Association

Sustained high blood pressure, which can be caused by poor diet and lack of exercise, can raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The survey, carried out jointly with Friends Provident, suggest that the costs of a healthy lifestyle will be the first to be jettisoned during a financial squeeze.

One in three of the 2,700 adults surveyed never or rarely eats the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.

However, 16% of those questioned said they would have to cut back spending on these in the next six months - and 15% said they had already done this.

A fifth said they were having to cut back on gym use this year because of financial pressures.

However, our love for expensive, unhealthy takeaways has yet to be affected, with more than three-quarters of adults regularly buying takeaways or ready meals.

Pavement pounding

Professor Graham Macgregor, the Blood Pressure Association's chairman, said: "It is clear that Britons are under pressure and this could have serious consequences.

"The dual effect on lifestyles of the credit crunch and lack of concern over long term health is putting the nation at risk of a blood pressure ticking time bomb."

We are now growing lots of fruit and vegetables and keep a few ducks for eggs
Chris, Swansea Valley

A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation said that it was perfectly possible to have a healthy lifestyle - and save money.

She said: "If you are finding the credit crunch means you can no longer afford the gym, take to the pavements.

"Integrating brisk walking into your everyday routine is good for your heart and free - it will also help relieve the extra stress that you may be feeling at this time.

"When out shopping remember that frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables provide the same benefits to your heart health as fresh.

"Giving up smoking and sticking to the recommended levels of alcohol will also help your heart and your pocket."

The Blood Pressure Association has come up with "Know Your Numbers!", a week-long effort to persuade people to have their blood pressure monitored.

Locations where checks will be available can be found on its website, or by ringing 0208 7724994.

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