It’s a frightening fact that heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer, causing around 82,000 deaths a year. The good news is that with the right lifestyle choices, the risk of developing it can be significantly reduced. As such and believing that prevention is better than cure, Spire Washington Hospital has introduced a Healthy Heart Clinic and here our cardiology consultant Dr Yogesh Raja tells us all about the services on offer.
Who is the Healthy Heart Clinic at Spire Washington Hospital aimed at?
Our Healthy Heart Clinic is for anyone who has any concerns about heart disease. This might be because they have lost a family member due to the illness, are a smoker, suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes or just want to put their mind at rest by having an early check. We generally see people from their early 30s onwards but particularly those over the age of 40, mainly because the risk of heart disease increases with age.
What should patients expect when they come to you?
When patients book in they are asked to complete a short questionnaire, which they bring to their first appointment with a cardiologist. This is discussed at length to help us develop a full patient history and includes questions about diet, exercise, height and weight, medications and family history among others. In short the information we gather allows us to use a risk calculator based on ethnicity, where the person lives and lifestyle elements.
Are any tests carried out?
We conduct a number of tests, which are critical to evaluating someone’s risk factors. These include measuring blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and a BMI check. Furthermore everyone is given an ECG, which is a test that records the heart’s electrical activity and tells us whether there are any issues with its natural rhythm. Once all this information is collated, we are able to place each person into a low, medium or high-risk group and advise appropriately. We also offer Cardiac CT calcium scoring for individuals who wish to have the screening done. This test detects calcium deposits in the arteries of the heart, which is a marker for coronary heart disease.
What type of advice and treatment is provided?
Everyone who comes through our door is given information about how they can improve their lifestyle such as through diet and exercise and sometimes that is all that is required. However those deemed medium risk are usually offered a CT calcium scan to help us ascertain if any further treatment may be needed. The people placed in a high-risk category are almost always started on medications to get their risk under control in the shortest possible timeframe.
Follow up appointments are arranged according to each individual’s needs and sometimes ongoing care is carried out by the person’s GP because that’s most appropriate. It’s all about patient preference and choice.
Can lifestyle changes really make that much difference?
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of premature deaths worldwide. Research has proven that educating people about the various risk factors involved and persuading them to adopt a healthier lifestyle can reduce the likelihood of it developing by around 25%. This is why shifting the focus from treatment to preventative measures will ultimately give people a better quality of life.
What we are trying to do here at Spire Washington Hospital is help put people’s minds at rest by allowing them to be well informed about their health and by educating them about healthy lifestyle choices that can help them be fit for the future, which is what everybody wants.