CARDIOVASCULAR disease (CVD) is one of the leading causes of premature death and disability in England. It is the collective term doctors use for things like heart attacks, strokes and other serious conditions, like vascular dementia, which have a huge impact on people’s lives. Many of these could be avoided by picking up on early warning signs.

Three main causes of CVD are atrial fibrillation (when your pulse is irregular and often too fast), high blood pressure and high cholesterol. We like to think of these as the ABC of cardiovascular disease. The trouble is that these things can go undetected for a long time and show few symptoms until it’s too late.

Over five million people in England are living undiagnosed with high blood pressure. In real terms this means that people like you and me are walking around, getting on with our daily lives, while being at undue risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you want to be sure that you’re not one of them, I have three handy tips:

One - Check your pulse. This one is really easy and you can do it whilst you’re reading your paper. Press two fingertips down firmly on the inside of your wrist until you can feel your pulse. Time yourself for thirty seconds. If you think your pulse seems erratic, do it for a further thirty seconds. If you think your pulse is irregular you should speak to your GP, or call the British Heart Foundation’s Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311 for more advice.

Two - Get your blood pressure tested. Lots of GP surgeries have a blood pressure machine you can use in their waiting area and quite a few of our local pharmacies can check it for you too.

Three - If you’re over 40, get your cholesterol checked with an NHS Health Check. You should get a letter every five years for one of these and it’s important that you don’t ignore it. No one likes getting older, but your risks increase as you age and the chances that you’ll stay feeling fit and young are much better if you take care of yourself and catch things early. If you haven’t had a letter for a health check, contact your GP practice and make sure you’re not missing out.

Help us save hearts and minds by not forgetting to look out for yours.

Dr Jeff Stoker is a local GP at the Bermuda and Marlowe Practice in Basingstoke, with over 20 years’ experience in the NHS.

Useful links: Heart Disease:

NHS Health Check: