Fast food and your heart: a match made in hell?

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We have long known that there is a tangible connection between a poor diet and an unhealthy heart. Foods with high levels of fat, sodium and sugar contribute to the cardiovascular system deteriorating and the heart having to work harder than normal to pump blood around the body, weakening it to fatal levels.

Despite this knowledge, however, we continue to eat fast food from high street chains and individual takeaways on a regular basis and our hearts continue to bear the brunt of our diets – these foods are typically high in the three ingredients noted above and lead to us consuming much more than we should on a daily basis. New analysis by life insurance provider British Seniors of figures compiled and published by the British Heart Foundation show that heart disease is still one of the UK’s biggest killers, contributing to 160,000 deaths in England, Scotland and Wales each year.

The figures, which can be viewed on an interactive map, are particularly damning for Scotland, with five local authorities appearing on the list of the ten areas with the highest levels of heart disease. The trend continues through the north of England, before figures start to improve around the Midlands.

SSurfers

The Daily Mirror published an article in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency to highlight the number of takeaways found in British cities, and its results show that the northern towns and cities of England tend to boast the highest number of takeaways per head of population in the UK.

The UK’s top 10 takeaway hotspots by fast food outlets per 100,000 residents:

Rank

Local authority

Region

Number of takeaways outlets per 100,000

Total number of takeaway outlets

1

Blackpool

NW England

198.6

279

2

Burnley

NW England

142.1

124

3

East Lindsey

East England

138.8

191

4

Hartlepool

NE England

137.2

127

5

Hyndburn

NW England

134.6

108

6

Bury

NW England

133.4

250

7

Leicester

East Midlands

132.4

447

8

Blackburn with Darwen

NW England

132.2

194

9

Tameside

NW England

131.8

291

10

City of Edinburgh

Scotland

130.7

644

This correlates interestingly with the results of the British Heart Foundation survey.

Rank

Local authority

Region

Heart disease deaths per year

Age-standardised death rate per 100,000

1

Glasgow City

Scotland

1760

399.9

2

Hyndburn

NW England

263

395.2

3

Blaenau Gwent

Wales

252

395.1

4

Tameside

NW England

708

393.8

5

Blackburn with Darwen

NW England

393

393.8

6

Renfrewshire

Scotland

574

389.6

7

Eilean Siar

Scotland

121

387.0

8

Scarborough

Yorkshire/Humber

518

385.4

9

North Lanarkshire

Scotland

963

385.0

10

West Dunbartonshire

Scotland

293

381.4

Hyndburn, Tameside and Blackburn with Darwen are second, fourth and fifth on the list of the areas most affected by heart disease, and they all appear on the Mirror’s list of top ten takeaway hotspots in fifth, ninth and eighth position respectively. Additionally, Blackpool and Burnley are eleventh and twelfth on the heart disease list and first and second on the takeaway list. This highlights a range of other socio-cultural issues, not least the general affluence of these areas in the North-West as opposed to areas that do not appear on the takeaway list.

There is a correlation between the number of takeaways in these areas and the local heart disease statistics but, while we could reasonably assume that the takeaways are a factor for those statistics, high numbers of smokers and other factors may also contribute. However, the presence of these areas on the same two lists is probably not a coincidence and serves as another reminder and further confirmation that a generally poor diet doesn’t do anyone any favours health-wise.

The 29th of September is World Heart Day and British Seniors have joined forces with Heart Research UK to raise funds to help beat heart disease. Find out how you can help by visiting their interactive heart health infographic.

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