Revealed: over half of people have high cholesterol and over 1 in 4 have high blood pressure

News – 21 July 2023
Over 200,000 Our Future Health clinic appointments show that many people are at risk of serious diseases, including stroke and heart attack

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*. 

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

As expected, the proportion of people with high blood pressure was higher among older volunteers. Just 12% of volunteers aged 18 to 29 had high blood pressure, but this increased to 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. 

How volunteers sign up for Our Future Health

Our Future Health is recruiting up to five million volunteers across the UK to create one of the most detailed pictures ever of people’s health, which will transform the prevention, detection and treatment of common diseases. 

Our Future Health is committed to recruiting 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 and tend to have higher rates of high blood pressure and cholesterol. The prevalence of high blood pressure and cholesterol found by Our Future Health is in keeping with results from the representative Health Survey for England, which shows that Our Future Health’s sample is reflective of the health status of the wider population. 

Working in collaboration with the NHS, the programme is sending invitation letters to people who live near clinics that are being rolled out across the UK on a region-by-region basis. Anyone over the age of 18 can join by  signing up online at any time, completing an online health questionnaire, and booking a clinic appointment.  

At their appointment, as well as having a blood sample and some physical measurements taken, volunteers are offered information about their own health, including their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In the future, this information will be used to offer volunteers the option to receive feedback about their risk of some diseases including diabetes and heart disease and have the opportunity to take part in cutting-edge research studies.  

Volunteers attending an Our Future Health clinic who have a high blood pressure reading are being advised to have it checked at a local pharmacy within the next week, or straight away with their pharmacist or GP if it is very high. Volunteers who have cholesterol results above the healthy level are being directed to online resources, such as the British Heart Foundation for helpful information, or if their levels are very high they are being advised to contact their GP for further assessment. 

What the experts say about our cholesterol and blood pressure findings

Dr Raghib Ali is Our Future Health’s Chief Medical Officer

Dr Raghib Ali OBE, Chief Medical Officer at Our Future Health:  

“High blood pressure and high cholesterol are key risk factors for two of the biggest causes of death and disability – heart attacks and stroke. 

“Measuring volunteers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, along with other risk factors we identify from the questionnaire and analysis of the blood sample will help us identify those most at risk and therefore those who have most to gain from medical intervention or lifestyle changes. If a person is found to be at high risk, they can then take steps with the help of healthcare professionals to lower their chances of suffering from heart disease and strokes. 

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation: 

“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.” 

Dr Richard Francis, Head of Research at the Stroke Association : 

“This is an exciting, and incredibly important development in stroke prevention. Our Future Health’s programme has the potential to save thousands of lives. 

“Initial data from the programme has uncovered information that would normally be very challenging to identify. Up to 90% of strokes are preventable, so a study of this scale has the potential to tell us so much about two of the most common risk factors for stroke and hopefully lead to more research to reduce our risk of stroke.  

“The speedy recruitment of half a million volunteers to a programme like this could give researchers the opportunity to find ways to prevent conditions such as high blood pressure faster than ever before. We look forward to seeing more discoveries as the programme is rolled out further.” 

Our volunteers on how their appointment helped

Volunteer Chelsey Carr

Chelsey Carr, 32, joined in Walsall: 

“At my appointment today, I’ve learned that my cholesterol is slightly raised, so I need to make a conscious effort to control it. Joining Our Future Health has spurred me on to make changes. I don’t want to be ill in my old age – I want to have a healthy retirement.”  

Miriam Clark, 66, is a retired teacher who joined Our Future Health in Croydon:  

“When I joined Our Future Health, the lowest blood pressure reading the healthcare assistant could get was extremely high. She told me to contact my doctor – and my GP told me to go straight to A&E. I went the same day. I’ve now had a series of tests to check my heart is working OK and I’ve been given strong medication to bring my blood pressure down. 

“The results of my appointment have changed my lifestyle – maybe they’ve even saved my life. It’s reminded me what a silent killer blood pressure can be.” 

Sid Shrestha, 38 is a management consultant who had his appointment with Our Future Health in Croydon:  

“There’s a lot of high blood pressure in my family, and overactive thyroid too. I was keen to find out more about my health and see what I can do now to help myself.” 

Dr Andrea Mottram, 54, is a GP who joined Our Future Health in Manchester:  

“Our Future Health is a fabulous opportunity. For a lot of people, things like cholesterol and blood pressure are often not found to be a problem until it’s too late – until they’ve had angina, a heart attack or stroke. Joining this programme is for your own gain as well as benefitting everybody.” 

How to join Our Future Health

Volunteers who don’t live near a location where Our Future Health appointments are currently available can join now and be notified when new appointment locations become available. New locations will be announced on the Our Future Health website and social media channels.  

Our Future Health is an ambitious collaboration between the public sector, life sciences companies and leading UK health charities including: Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer’s Society, Asthma + Lung UK, Blood Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Now, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, Kidney Research UK, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Parkinson’s UK, Prostate Cancer UK, Royal Osteoporosis Society and Stroke Association.    

How we revealed the new cholesterol and blood pressure statistics

*Of the 227,592 people who attended an appointment with Our Future Health between Summer 2022 and June 2023, 61,873 were found to have high blood pressure, which represents 27% of people tested. Over half (119,651 or 54%) of people tested were found to have high total cholesterol levels. 

These figures are from volunteers across the UK who have taken part in Our Future Health. Although this includes a large number of adults with a range of ages and socioeconomic demographics, this sample may not accurately reflect the entire UK population. 

An Our Future Health appointment takes 15-30 minutes. At the end of an appointment, volunteers receive four cholesterol results, total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides.   

Volunteers also receive their blood pressure results, which are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. As a general guide, normal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher. Some participants with high cholesterol and high blood pressure were already receiving treatment for these conditions, indicating the need to both initially diagnose and then adequately monitor and treat them.  

About Our Future Health

Our Future Health is a collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors. It aims to be the UK’s largest health research programme, bringing people together to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat disease.   

Our Future Health is committed to the highest standards, policies and processes that protect participants’ confidentiality, whilst maximising the opportunity to help researchers to tackle serious diseases. Participants’ data will be de-identified and held securely in trusted research environments that meet strict security criteria. There will be a robust and transparent access process to ensure appropriate research access to Our Future Health data and samples for registered researchers. All researchers will be held to the same standards.   

Our Future Health is a member of the UK Health Data Research Alliance, the independent alliance of leading healthcare and research organisations establishing best practice for the ethical use of UK health data for research at scale.   
Our Future Health is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (number 12212468) and a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (charity number 1189681) and OSCR, Scottish Charity Regulator (charity number SC050917).