Heart conditions are ‘second biggest cause of life insurance claims after cancer’

A test carried out by Public Health England (PHE) has found that four-out-of-five people have a ‘heart age’ older than their actual age, putting them at an increased risk of an early death through heart attack or stroke. Of this, more than a third were found to have a ‘heart age’ of more than five years above their actual age.

PHE’s free online tool, The Heart Age Test, designed to assess the cardiovascular health of people over 30, runs through a series of questions related to an individual’s lifestyle and physical health. The test has been completed more than 1.9 million times by users so far.

It is estimated that around 19,200 people under the age of 75 in England die of conditions that are preventable, and cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death among men.

Professor Jamie Waterall, national lead for cardiovascular disease at PHE, said: “Millions are at risk of cardiovascular disease but don’t know it, putting themselves at real risk of suffering ill-health or dying younger. By making important lifestyle changes you can reduce your risk before it’s too late.

“People in the UK are unknowingly living at high risk of a heart attack or stroke due to their lifestyle, their family history of heart disease, or undiagnosed conditions including high blood pressure and cholesterol.

“Our message today is that it’s never too late to change. Take the test, and if you are concerned by the age of your heart, make an appointment to see your GP.”

Life and critical illness

“As a protection provider we see the impact heart-related illness can have on people,” said Simon Jacobs, head of underwriting and claims at Aegon. “Heart-related protection claims are the second biggest cause of life insurance claims after cancer received by Aegon. In fact claims related to the heart accounted for 23% of life insurance claims and 18.5% of critical illness (CI) claims in 2017.

“Men made up the majority of heart-related CI claims in the last five years and the average age of a claimant was around 51. But in 2017 the youngest heart attack CI claimant was aged 34,” he continued.

He added that heart attack was the most common cause of heart-related CI claims in 2017, while heart-related CI claims also include coronary artery bypass graft, cardiomyopathy, heart valve replacement, aorta graft surgery, open heart surgery, angioplasty and cardiac arrest.

“There are many different factors that can age your heart,” said Jacobs. “These include smoking, obesity, alcohol intake, lack of exercise, diabetes, raised cholesterol and raised blood pressure, as well as a family history. An increased awareness of these and the opportunity and support to make smarter choices could lead to a nation of healthier hearts.”

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