Experts warn of risks as figures show UK public pay little attention to health guidelines
New figures out today show little understanding and a lack of concern, among the UK public about the serious health implications of a poor diet – including excess salt and sugar – combined with a lack of exercise.
Research from more than 2,000 people in the UK revealed a massive 90 per cent were unaware of the guideline for daily salt intake – 6 grams. One in three (33 per cent) said they don’t worry about the amount of salt they eat, with the same number unconcerned about the amount of sugar in their diet. Half of all those polled said they make no attempt to control the amount of sugar in their diet, while one in seven (14 per cent) admit to being ‘addicted to sugar’.
The figures also reveal a lack of understanding of the impact of a high sugar and salt diet, with 40 per cent of people unaware that eating less salt can reduce blood pressure levels and in turn lower your chances of heart disease and heart attacks – the leading cause of death and disability in the UK.
Even less – 50 per cent – of us, are aware of the link between high blood pressure and stroke. Similarly, knowledge about the causes and effects of high cholesterol is poor. More than one in five (22 per cent) in the UK said they are aware that their cholesterol levels are higher than the recommended guidelines, while almost half (48 per cent) had no idea what their levels were, with 17 per cent having never been tested. Despite this, more than a third (38 per cent) are unaware that high cholesterol is a serious health risk and a similar number (36 per cent) unaware that high cholesterol is linked to heart disease and heart attacks.
The figures also show that a staggering 18 per cent of us NEVER do any exercise, including a brisk walk (30 minutes or more), while 40 per cent of people exercise less than once a month. Just 16 per cent say they meet the Government guidelines of 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, five times a week.
The research also provides an insight into the sleep patterns of the nation, with three quarters of people in the UK getting seven hours or less sleep a night, while one in ten (10 per cent) get by on less than five hours a night.
15 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women also said they drink more than the recommended guidelines for alcohol every week, which is 21 units for men and 14 units for women.
Nuffield Health is urging people to take a look at their lifestyle choices and make small changes which could result in huge, long term health benefits. Cutting back on salt, sugar and alcohol, whilst integrating a little more exercise into their lives, can be achieved with simple changes like forgoing daily ‘habits’ such as the morning latte or simply swapping a sandwich filling at lunchtime. Over time, these small steps will increase fitness and reduce excess weight in order to significantly improve health through lowering people’s cholesterol and blood pressure, and in turn, reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease and stroke.
Dr Auldric Ratajczak, Deputy Medical Director, Nuffield Health said:
“Health guidelines are there to help people make the right choices and it’s concerning to see that people either aren’t aware of them or are choosing to ignore them. It’s often just relatively small changes that can put you back on track. We shouldn’t underestimate the clinical impact small changes can have in terms of good health and disease prevention.”
Nuffield Health has come up with four small changes that people can make to begin the road to a healthier, longer life:
1. SWEET NOTHINGS – REPLACE A FIZZY DRINK WITH WATER AND LIVE LONGER.
Swapping a daily fizzy drink for water will cut out seven teaspoons of sugar from your diet. If you did that every day for a year you’d save 2,548 teaspoons or 10kgs of sugar – the weight of a small dog.
2. CUT THE FAT – SWAP YOUR MORNING LATTE FOR A HERBAL TEA AND REDUCE YOUR RISK OF CANCER.
If you swapped your morning latte for herbal tea, you could cut back on 5kg of fat over the year, the equivalent of 20 packets of lard. This could save 39,000 calories and help you lose up to 5kg over a year. Losing weight can reduce the risk of cancer, as excess weight contributes to one in five cancers. Women over 50 who lose 10kg reduce their risk of breast cancer by 30 per cent. This could actually lengthen your life. An average height, overweight 30 year old female could add 6 years to their lifespan just by losing 5kg.
3. A PINCH OF SALT – SWAP YOUR SANDWICH FOR A LOW-SALT OPTION AND REDUCE YOUR RISK OF HEART ATTACK.
Daily salt intake should not exceed 6g. If you swapped a Italian prosciutto on artisan bread (which contains 6.4g of salt), with a chicken and avocado sandwich (which has 2g of salt) for five days a week, you could reduce your lunchtime intake of salt by a third and cut out 1.14kg of salt a year. That’s the amount of salt you’d find in 33 litres of sea water. By not exceeding 6 grams of salt per day you, you can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack and be less likely to need long-term medication like Beta-blockers.
4. MAKE SMALL JOURNEYS BY FOOT AND ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE.
While it may only burn a few calories, if you added 30 minutes of walking into your daily routine five days a week, you would walk the equivalent of fourteen marathons in one year. This extra exercise can add 3 and a half years to your lifespan, irrespective of weight. Exercise and increased fitness levels not only reduces your risk of cancers, but it improves your chances of recovering from the disease.
Last updated Monday 21 March 2016
First published on Thursday 22 January 2015