Published: 11:49, 01 October 2018
| Updated: 12:42, 02 October 2018
With around 2,400 people dying from a heart attack or a stroke each year in Kent, adults in the county are being urged to take a free, online Heart Age Test which will provide an immediate estimation of their 'heart age'.
The Heart Age Test - an initiative by Public Health England (PHE) in collaboration with NHS England, the British Heart Foundation and with support from the Stroke Association - is the best way to find out if you're indeed at risk.
If your heart age is higher than your actual age, then you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) - with stroke and heart attack being the most common examples - is the leading cause of death for men and the second leading cause of death for women.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure can both increase someone's heart age, making them up to three times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.
"More than 2,373 people in Kent die of a heart attack or stroke each year," commented Michael Baker, deputy director for Healthcare Public Health at PHE South East.
"We know that around 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes in people under 75 could be prevented.
"If you are aware that you might be at risk, this can help you decide what lifestyle and behaviour you need to change to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke."
Completed tests in Kent have already shown that 76% of people have a heart age higher than their actual age, putting them at risk.
"Worryingly, 33% have a heart age over five years and 15% at least 10 years over their actual age.
The test essentially asks a number of simple physical and lifestyle questions and provides an immediate estimation of someone's heart age, as well as a prediction of the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by a certain age.
It also gives suggestions on lifestyle changes to help people reduce their heart age such as losing weight.
One of those to benefit from the Heart Age Test was 40-year-old John Allison from Dover who visits the gym regularly and leads an active lifestyle.
However, at a recent NHS Health Check he learnt that his heart age was 72. John had been a heavy smoker and, combined with a stressful job, his health check revealed that he had high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Although he was doing lots of exercise, he wasn't eating enough of the right foods as part of his training regime, which all contributed to his heart age being 30 years older than his actual age.
"I was shocked when I found out," said John.
"I do smoke, but I also exercise every day and thought I was eating a good diet as part of my training, so I didn't expect to end up with a heart age of 72.
He added: "I'm now making simple changes to my diet on the advice of my health checker, and I'm going to start a quit attempt with my local One You Smokefree service which I'm told could lower my heart age by as much as 11 years.
"I'm feeling optimistic that if I keep going I'll be able to bring my heart age down to much closer to my actual age."
Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, added: "Too often, people are completely unaware of this risk, until it causes a life changing or deadly heart attack or stroke which could have been prevented.
"Our message today is that it's never too late to change."
For more information on Health checks and local support services, click here.