There's no doubt there's a concentrated rise in obesity and being overweight, especially among younger people. Fuelled by endless sofa-based entertainment, office work and cheap junk foods, the WHO (opens in new tab) claims worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
All this worldwide weight gain among younger people has led to instances in heart failure and stroke risk rising in men under 40, according to new research from the University of Gothenburg (opens in new tab). The University monitored data on over one million men who enlisted for the military in Sweden at 18.5 years of age, on average, across a period of 25 years. They then monitored the participants over 20 years later.
The University found some disturbing facts: the proportion of enlisted men who had a BMI of overweight increased from 6.6 to 11.2 percent, and instances of heart failure rose a huge 69%, with further rises in cerebral haemorrages and increased risk of strokes. (If you're worried at all, you can check out our guide to the best heart rate monitors).
David Åberg, the study's first author, wrote: "Our results thus provide strong support for thinking that obesity and, to some extent, low fitness by the age of 18 affect early-onset cardiovascular disease.
"So at societal level, it's important to try to get more physical activity, and to have already established good eating habits by adolescence, while being less sedentary,"
One key way we can take care of our heart health is to do more cardiovascular exercise. Endurance exercise like long-distance running or cycling is often decried as not as efficient for weight loss as other exercises such as HIIT. This is true, but running is associated with significantly lower levels of all-cause mortality along with increased cardio health. Mixing endurance exercise into your regular exercise routine can lead to a big improvement in heart health.
Stretching is also key to boosting circulation. It's well-known stretching is vitally important at any age for retaining mobility and muscle health, but scientists from from the University of Milan (opens in new tab) found stretching is associated with increased blood flow and a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes thanks to its effect on promoting good circulation around the body. Our guide to the best stretching exercises is a great place to start.
Finally, get yourself one of the best fitness trackers. Having a heart rate monitor on you at all times is an amazing tool so you can tailor your workouts to push your heart, watch for signs of a racing heartbeat or set alerts when your heart goes above or below a certain level.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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