Only half recognise heart condition warning signs

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Workers could be “sleepwalking into an epidemic of cardiovascular disease” if they do not improve their knowledge of heart disease symptoms, a health insurance and benefits provider has warned.

Only half (53%) of people in the UK who took part in Cigna’s 360 Wellbeing Survey 2019 were aware of the symptoms of heart problems.

They also demonstrated poor awareness of the measures crucial to spotting the early signs of cardiovascular disease. Only 37% knew their blood pressure rating and just 32% knew their body mass index, compared with global averages of 66% and 51% respectively.

Despite the overall lack of awareness, 16% of people in the UK had experienced symptoms of a heart problem, which can include pain and discomfort in the chest, arms, neck, jaw and back; shortness of breath; and dizziness. More than a quarter did nothing to alleviate their symptoms.

“This research paints a worrying picture for the UK. The country’s poor ranking for BMI and blood pressure awareness – two key measures for tracking heart health – as well the lack of concern for heart health in later life, means we could be sleep walking into an epidemic of cardiovascular disease,” said Phil Austin, CEO of Cigna Europe.

“More than a quarter of deaths in the UK are caused by heart and circulatory disease, so it’s important for companies to do all they can to help employees understand the importance of managing their heart health and help them better understand the early warning signs of poor heart health. Through making more information available to employees, employers can make a real difference to their employees’ lives and improve the state of the nation’s heart health.”

The survey, which received responses from more than 13,000 people worldwide, found that those in developed countries had a lower than average awareness of the symptoms of poor heart health.

Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – were more likely to have experienced potential indicators of a heart problem than any other age group, but those aged 50 and over were most likely to seek professional help.

The Cigna survey also asked about workers’ mental health. Eighty-seven per cent said they were stressed, with 12% defining their stress as “unmanageable”.

Only 46% received mental health and wellbeing support from their employer and only 28% of those felt it was adequate.

Women reported higher work-related stress levels than men, but only marginally (88% compared with 85%). Six in 10 women said workplace wellness programmes needed to better address each gender’s specific needs.

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