Understanding your heart health with updated NHS test
In September 2015, the first iteration of the Heart Age Test was launched as part of an initiative to improve the health and knowledge among UK residents. The test, designed with the help of the NHS, Public Health England, UCL, and the British Heart Foundation, offers a quick and easy mechanism to determine the age and potential health of one’s heart. The tool was launched amid growing concern over the prevalence of heart disease and related, often serious medical conditions that shorten the lives of millions each year. While unhealthy lifestyle choices decline among adults in England, more can be done to prevent unnecessary heart issues later in life. The Heart Age Test is meant to assist with this significant task, and new updates to its functionality make it even easier to use – and understand.
What is heart age?
As a simplistic way to help people understand their unique risk of a heart attack or stroke, one’s heart age is a quick calculation of risk factors. These include family medical history, diet and nutrition components, physical activity, and smoker status. Those who have a young heart age based on these factors are perceived to be healthier than those who have a higher, or older, heart age. The Heart Age Test makes it easy for individuals to calculate their heart age in a matter of moments.
The NHS Heart Age Test is an online platform that asks basic questions related to one’s age, gender, ethnic group, and health history. Those who take the test are also asked about their current lifestyle, including if they smoke, if they currently have cardiovascular disease, and if they have been diagnosed with diabetes. The Heart Age Test also probes about height and weight, if there is a history of atrial fibrillation, or chronic kidney disease. Based on more than 70 years of data relating to heart health and risks of heart disease, the test is able to determine one’s heart age relative to their real age.
The recent updates to the test offer even more valuable information, including an added screen on the results page. With this addition, individuals taking the test can see how their heart age might improve by making changes to their lifestyle and eliminating common risk factors. For instance, giving up smoking or reducing cholesterol levels may provide a path toward improved heart health for those who currently have these risk factors present. The four adaptation of the test, launched in September of 2018, also compiles more data specific to English users, helping individuals receive the most accurate results possible.
Impact on NHS staff and its patients
The campaign promoting the Heart Age Test, reinvigorated after the most recent updates, offers a great deal of promise for England’s patient population. The risk factors associated with a heart attack and stroke are prevalent among adults in the UK, but many individuals are woefully unaware of how at risk they are. The test makes it simple for people to recognise what may be increasing their potential for a heart issue in the future, and actionable steps for reducing these risk immediately.
Adults in England are thinking more about their health, highlighted in recent surveys that show an uptick in accessing lifestyle information after taking the test. Since its initial launch, nearly two million people have tested their heart age online. While this is obviously beneficial to those who take the simple step to check their risk, the test puts no additional strain on the NHS or GP services. Instead, it encourages people to take more ownership of their health and well-being as it pertains to their heart. This outcome relieves some of the pressure put on the healthcare system, and ultimately, lays the groundwork for a healthier, more proactive patient population in the UK.
Steps to improve heart health
The most recent update to the Heart Age Test offers more value than previous versions, based on the interactive aspect of the results screen. When individuals see their heart age compared to their real age, based on their current state of health, they are provided detailed information on how to improve their health by eliminating risk factors. The test recalculates one’s heart age based on the elimination of common risks, including quitting smoking, eliminating excess weight, reducing high cholesterol, and decreasing blood pressure levels. While there is not much to be done about family history and its impact on future heart issues, those who take proactive steps to improve heart health are better off in the long run.
The editorial unit