According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart and circulatory disease. It is the leading cause of death worldwide and is the single biggest cause of heart attacks. It is sometimes known as cardiovascular disease or ischemic heart disease.
Coronary heart disease occurs when there is a build-up of fatty substances that clog the arteries that supply blood to your heart — this is called atheroma. This leads to the narrowing of your arteries over time, which restricts the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Consequently, your heart weakens as it receives less oxygen and fewer nutrients than it needs to function in a healthy manner.
Atheroma can lead to painful angina attacks, and sometimes, if pieces of the atheroma break away, they can form a blood clot that triggers a heart attack or stroke.
Heart arrhythmia refers to heart rhythm problems such that you have an irregular heartbeat. This can mean your heart beats either too fast (tachycardia), too slowly (bradycardia) or irregularly (atrial fibrillation).
Congenital defects are present from birth and therefore typically develop in the womb. Occasionally congenital heart defects can develop in children and adults due to the structure of the heart changing as you grow, revealing underlying problems with the heart.
Types of congenital heart defects include:
Congenital heart problems can go undetected for a number of years as they often don’t cause noticeable symptoms.
This is when the walls of the heart’s chambers thicken, enlarge, stretch or become stiff. This affects the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood around your body. Cardiomyopathy is most common in children and young people and is typically inherited.
There are three main types of cardiomyopathy:
This is the most common type of cardiomyopathy affecting people aged 20-60 years old. It causes the heart chambers to become enlarged (dilated), specifically the lower left chamber (left ventricle) which widens with its walls becoming thinner. This prevents the heart from pumping blood properly.
This type of cardiomyopathy is usually inherited and develops over time due to natural ageing or high blood pressure. It causes the walls of the heart to thicken, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. There are often little to no symptoms as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy develops.
This is the least common type of cardiomyopathy, which makes the muscles in the heart become rigid. It can be caused by a number of different diseases including connective tissue disorders.
There are many different causes of heart disease depending on the type of heart disease you have. However, general risk factors include:
While men are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, the risk increases in women after menopause. Heart disease can also develop if:
Managing any existing health conditions can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
There are many types of heart disease; some have no symptoms and symptoms also differ between the different types. You may notice:
If a child has a congenital heart defect, they may display symptoms such as an inability to exercise and cyanosis (a blue tinge to their skin).
If you experience any of the symptoms below, call 999 immediately as these could be symptoms of a heart attack, which is a life-threatening condition:
In order to diagnose coronary heart disease, your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you about your medical history, your family’s history of heart disease as well as questions about your diet and lifestyle.
Your doctor may also order a blood test and a cholesterol test. Depending on the results from these tests, you may have:
You may also be referred to a doctor who specialises in treating the heart and blood vessels (cardiologist).
If you have coronary heart disease, you can reduce your risk of having a stroke by eating a healthy diet, exercising for at least 30 minutes every day five times a week, quitting smoking and losing any excess weight.
Your doctor may suggest surgery to treat coronary heart disease. The type of surgery will depend on the type of coronary heart disease that you have but could be one of the following:
Medications can help keep your symptoms under control. There are several different types available, including:
Your medicine may be in tablet or capsule form, which will need to be swallowed or dissolved in water. Alternatively, your medicine may come as an aerosol that you spray under your tongue or a self-adhesive patch, which is placed on your skin and worn for a period of time.
Regardless of what medication you are prescribed, it’s important to know what you’re taking and understand what side effects it can cause. Speak to your doctor about why your medication has been prescribed, what the potential benefits are and also the risks it carries and what you should do if you notice any side effects.
Ask your doctor about when and how to take your medication, and make sure your doctor is aware of all of the other medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements.
If you experience severe side effects from your medication, call 999.
If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.
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Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.
Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.
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Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager
Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.
Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor
Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.
Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing
Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.