East Londoners most likely to die of heart attack

Take-away restaurant in Whitechapel. Pic: Ema Globyte

Residents of deprived East London areas are more likely to die from heart attacks than the rest of the London population, research has revealed.

Figures released by charity HEART UK show the risk of dying from heart disease varies across the capital, with lowest death rate in Kensington and Chelsea and highest in Islington.

Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Hackney are among the boroughs with rates above the national average along with ten other boroughs including Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham.

While the average death rate is 75 in every 100,000, the recent figures show 100 people die of coronary heart disease in Tower Hamlets. Statistics from Hackney and The City revealed 91 people dying of heart disease from the same sample.

Affluent areas such as Westminster are significantly below the average with 47 deaths per 100,000.

A new campaign has been set up by HEART UK in collaboration with US-based MSD private healthcare to help raise awareness of the issue to Londoners. The campaign is consumer-based and will promote healthy living and good diet, along with celebrity endorsement to put the message across successfully.

HEART UK said such high rates are often down to an unhealthy lifestyles. Jules Payne, the charity’s chief executive said she was grateful for all the effort to reduce coronary heart disease mortality, but “there is still much to do and action is needed.”

“The majority of PCTs in East London areas are higher than the national average and HEART UK believes that no matter where people live they can reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by taking a proactive approach towards their health. People need to see their doctor if they have any concerns or contact HEART UK, especially if they have a family history of heart disease,” Payne told ELL.

The figures show men and women of east London are three times more likely to die of coronary heart disease than residents of the Royal Borough, and twice as likely compared to Westminster.

ELL went to Tower Hamlets to ask the residents what they think are the causes for the issue in East London and how could these figures be challenged.

Harmeet Basra, 32, owner of Lilly Bling clothes store near Brick Lane, said:

“Unhealthy diet which comes as a result of poverty is the cause for heart disease. It is no wonder people from affluent areas are much healthier: they buy organic food which is almost unaffordable for people from most east London areas. That makes residents turn to fat food – Tower Hamlets is full of cheap take-away stores, selling meals for as little as one pound. Even families with young children eat there, what makes it a habit from early age. This all needs to be changed, maybe with some better paid jobs, so people could afford better food.”

Chitral Bhagat at Whitechapel Market. Pic: Rhadika Seth

Chitral Bhagat, 25,  from Mile End, a computer science student, said one of the main reasons for such high level of deaths in Tower Hamlets is stress.

“People get stressed because of job losses, the heat and the noise. The Royal London Hospital is nearby and the noise of helicopters is unbearable – day and night. People living in Whitechapel are unlikely to sleep well. It is especially difficult for older people: when you’re old, you need to rest, and the noise and the summer heat makes it impossible. And Tower Hamlets is quite a poor area, meaning that there is no escape from it – people can’t afford to move out.”

Tarek Ahmed, 35, working at a fast-food chicken take-away in Whitechapel, attributed the economic crisis to such high rates of deaths.

“There are no jobs in east London, or very few jobs. People turn to drinking and smoking because they are unemployed. The government should take care of this by investing in the area and creating some new employment opportunities… Then people would not have to turn to bad habits.”

However, sales assistant at Rokit store in Brick Lane, Charlotte Turner, 23, said she believed the high number of deaths was due to carelessness of young people.

“Brick Lane and Shoreditch are full of young people who do not tend to care about their health at all. Constant drinking and drugs are part of their lives, and they do not see any consequences, at least until they get older. Diet is obviously one of the contributors, too. Yet it is very difficult to change people’s minds about things that do not seem to have any negative consequences straight away. I think shock tactics could be used to convey the message, something like the pictures on cigarette packs. Maybe then people would realise they put themselves at risk.”

Additional reporting: Taslima Begum and Radhika Seth

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