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Dr Chris Jones explains how the Non-modifiable risk factor of age and time relates to the facts and figures of cardiovascular disease.
Hi. My name’s Dr Chris Jones, and today we’ll be looking at some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. As you should hopefully know by now, cardiovascular disease is a chronic condition that develops over decades, resulting in acute events, such as a heart attack or a stroke. When we’re talking about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, we’re talking about the factors that influence the progression of this chronic disease. So the factors that are influencing the rate at which the disease progresses, and therefore affect whether you’re likely to experience the disease within the next 10 years or over your lifetime. Cardiovascular disease is the biggest single cause of death in the developed world.
According to the British Heart Foundation figures, in 2010, 180,000 people in the UK died of cardiovascular disease. This accounted for a third of all the deaths in that year. Essentially, what these figures are telling us is this is an excellent thing to learn about. Because what you’re learning about today is very likely to kill you in the future. And yet - and this is the good news - most of the population are actually at a low risk of dying of cardiovascular disease in the short term, so say in the next 10 years. And why is this? Well, this is because of the biggest, non-modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, age.
If we look again at those British Heart Foundation figures of 180,000 people dying of cardiovascular disease in 2010, of those 180,000 people, 133,000 of them, so 74%, died of cardiovascular disease over the age of 75. So age is the single biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and you can do nothing about it. As you know, the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease develop over time. So it makes sense that the older you are, the longer these factors have had to interact with your vascular system. Therefore, the more progressed the disease is, the more likely you are to die of it. Most of the risk factors that you’ll hear about today work on the rate of disease progression.
So they shorten the time it takes for the disease to develop, and in other words, they will kill you quicker. This isn’t the case with age. Age is necessary for the progression of the disease, but it isn’t causative. You can think of this process a bit like bread making. To make bread, you need to mix together the yeast, the flour, and the water, put it somewhere warm, and let it rise. Now, this takes time. You can alter the rate at which this dough rises. You can put in more yeast. You can put the dough at a warmer or a cooler temperature. Time is necessary for this dough to rise, but it isn’t causing it.
What’s causing the yeast to rise is the action of the yeast with the flour and water. It’s the same for cardiovascular disease. Age per se is not causing cardiovascular disease. What’s causing cardiovascular disease is the interaction of a number of factors, a number of risk factors, over years and decades.

In this video, Dr Chris Jones, Expert in the Genetics of Haemostasis and Thrombosis from the Biomedical Sciences department at University of Reading discusses how the non-modifiable risk factor of age and time relates to the facts and figures of cardiovascular disease.

You can download the Week 4 supplement, which contains additional images and descriptions to help you understand the topics covered in this video.

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Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

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