Is your heart healthy?

21 November 2017

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is when your coronary arteries become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls called atherosclerosis. These arteries supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. The most common symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD) is chest pain.

You can also experience other symptoms, such as a light headed sensation, palpitations and shortness of breath. Some people may not have any symptoms before they are diagnosed.

Your arteries may become so narrow that they cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to your heart. The pain and discomfort you may feel as a result is called angina.

If a piece of atheroma breaks off it may cause a blood clot to form. If it blocks your coronary artery and cuts off the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle, your heart may become permanently damaged. This is known as a heart attack.

There are several ways you can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), such as lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

A risk factor is something that increases your probability of getting a disease. There are several causes that can increase the risk of developing CHD. The main ones are:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes  
  • Being physically inactive
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Sex - men are more likely to develop CHD at an earlier age than women.
  • Age - the older you are, the more likely you are to develop CHD

The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop CHD.  Even though you can’t change all your risk factors, there is plenty you can do to reduce your risk and help to protect your heart. 

These include:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
    A well-balanced diet should include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Try to vary the types of fruit and vegetables  you eat. They can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned. It is recommended you should limit the amount of salt you eat. It is important to eat the right fats such as unsaturated fat include oily fish, avocados and nuts and seeds. 
  • Be more physically active
    Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure.
    Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lowers your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
  • Give up smoking
    Smoking is a major risk factor for developing atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries). It also causes the majority of cases of coronary thrombosis in people under the age of 50. Keep your blood pressure under control

    You can keep your blood pressure under control by eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, exercising regularly and, if required, taking the appropriate medication to lower your blood pressure. If you don't have CHD but have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or a history of family heart disease, your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent you developing heart-related problems.
  • Diabetes
    You should also try to avoid too much sugar in your diet, as this can increase your chances of developing diabetes, which is proven to dramatically increase your chances of developing CHD.
    If you have diabetes, being physically active and controlling your weight and blood pressure will help manage your blood sugar level

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or are concerned this could be affecting you, please call our cardiology triage service and book an appointment with one of our Specialist Cardiologists.

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