Our future health

Findings from the UK’s biggest medical-research project suggest that more than half of all adults have high cholesterol and more than one in four have high blood pressure. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are key risk factors for two of the biggest causes of death and disability – heart attacks and stroke. The British Heart Foundation’s medical director said that tackling these “treatable silent killers” must remain a priority “if we are to prevent people suffering or dying needlessly”. We are sleepwalking towards a massive future public health crisis. We need to shift to a more prevention-first approach, helping people to live healthier lifestyles before their health declines. Children’s education, reflecting Life-Based Learning principles, has a massive role to play in achieving that goal.

Our Future Health is a collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors. It is recruiting up to five million volunteers across the UK to create one of the most detailed pictures ever of people’s health to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat disease. Anyone over the age of eighteen can sign up. The aim is to recruit volunteers who reflect the UK population, including those from ethnic minorities and more deprived populations who have been under-represented in health research in the past.

Over half a million people have joined Our Future Health so far and around a quarter of a million have already attended a clinic appointment where their blood pressure and cholesterol have been tested. Among volunteers tested to date, 27% were found to have high blood pressure and 54% were found to have high total cholesterol levels.

More than a third (34%) of men taking part had high blood pressure, compared with just under a quarter of women (22%). A higher proportion of women than men tested had high cholesterol (62% for women and 46% for men).

As expected, the proportion of people with high blood pressure was higher among older volunteers – 46% among those aged 80 and over. High cholesterol was most prevalent in volunteers in their 50s, affecting 67% of those aged 50 to 59.

These findings from Our Future Health support previous estimates that show millions of people in the UK are living with undetected high blood pressure and raised cholesterol, which can put them at significant risk of a heart attack or stroke. Tackling these treatable silent killers must remain a priority if we are to prevent people suffering or dying needlessly.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation

The Health Foundation projected in July that more than nine million people in England – nearly one in five of the population – will be living with major illness by 2040. Cancer Research UK published figures in 2022 suggesting that 7 in 10 people in the UK – 42 million people – could be overweight or obese by that same date. Meanwhile, it has been predicted that the number of diabetes cases around the world will double by 2050.

Life-Based Learning is predicated on the idea that we cannot simply carry on as we are. Unless we do more to ensure that individuals – including children and young people – adopt healthy lifestyle choices, we will continue to sleepwalk towards disaster.

We must support people to eat and live healthily and we must think long term. Schools have a key role to play by developing healthy habits and a healthy mindset in children and young people that they will carry with them into adult life. Life-Based Learning priorities children’s physical and mental wellbeing. This includes opportunities for regular sport and physical activity, and an emphasis on food education and healthy eating.

The image at the head of this article is taken from the LinkedIn page of Our Future Health UK.

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