Health insurance could help dodge the rising risk of heart disease

26 February 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
Heart disease has risen, especially among the younger generation, despite being in decline for the last thirty years, according to experts.

While the number of cases in the older generation has fallen for three decades, the figures are levelling off or starting to rise for those in the 35 to 55 age group, and complacency is being named as the prime suspect, as an unhealthy number of people rely on junk food diets, ignore health warnings about smoking and excessive drinking, and do not get enough exercise.

The study was carried out by a team from the University of British Columbia and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and found that a large number of individuals who died of unnatural causes, such as road accidents, displayed evidence of having some level of coronary artery disease.

This information follows a report released last week by the UK's Department of Health, which proudly announced that its target to reduce heart disease by 40 per cent amongst those over the age of 75 has been reached five years ahead of schedule. The report cites various reasons for this rapid decline, such as improvements in the care available – for example, in emergency care and heart attack care – a decrease in waiting times, and a two-fold increase in the number of prescriptions for cholesterol-controlling medications over the last year.

The Health Minister, Ann Keen, said that the NHS has made "ongoing and sustainable improvements to the treatment of heart disease that have dramatically reduced mortality rates", saving 22,000 lives a year, but research says that this is not so for the younger generation.

As a member of the "first generation for whom eating out and ordering became as natural as breathing", Damien Whitworth is "concerned about what they'll say about my heart" when he goes in for a check-up, he said in a commentary piece in The Times. His high-calorie, low-exercise lifestyle, he says, means it should come as little surprise when "you look in the mirror and find you're the size of a small bungalow."

Obesity and diabetes, which are both on the rise, are thought to be strong factors in the rise, and experts are calling for greater vigilance when it comes to screening young people for signs of heart disease in order to catch it early. Some medical insurance providers, such as Prudential health insurance, offer discounts on check-ups and various incentives for keeping healthy, such as including cheap or free gym membership with the policy, and a rewards system for buying fresh fruit and vegetables.

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