Your heart is a finely-tuned instrument that serves the whole body. It is a muscular organ around the size of a closed fist, and it sits in the chest, slightly to the left of center. This major organ pumps blood throughout the body, and when it doesn’t function properly, it can lead to serious health problems. Today, we talk about those health problems to spread knowledge and awareness about the most important organ in our body.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the name for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. It is commonly associated with fatty deposits building up inside the arteries which can increase your risk of blood clotting.
There are four main types of CVD including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Aortic disease
The World Heart Federation have found that, ‘cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death claiming 18.6 million lives each year’. Shockingly, ‘at least 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided’.
There are many different types of strokes. Each is caused by a different type of problem with the blood flow to the brain. Some strokes occur when a blockage in an artery causes the blood to accumulate in one part of the brain. Others happen when there is a problem with the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. See NHS for more details.
Angina is a symptom of coronary heart disease. It is a pain or discomfort in your chest, arm, neck, stomach or jaw that happens when the blood supply to your heart becomes restricted because of your arteries becoming narrowed.
Angina is your heart’s way of telling you it’s not getting enough oxygen when you’re doing something strenuous or you’re feeling under stress.
A heart attack is when the blood supply to part of your heart muscle becomes completely blocked. This is most commomly caused by a piece of fatty material breaking off and a blood clot forms within a coronary artery.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease is a general term used to refer to a series of birth defects that affect the heart. Some babies are born with it so require immediate surgery and others may need surgery later, during their childhood. Learn more about this here.
Inherited Heart Disease
Inherited heart diseases are passed on by family members. Affecting various ages. It is important to know if you are at risk with medical checks and keeping your heart healthy.
How to keep a healthy heart?
Due to the nature of these conditions, many of these tips are about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
A great first step to stop smoking is talking to your doctor. They can then choose to refer you to a “stop smoking” clinic or prescribe nicotine replacement options like patches and gum. Find your local stop smoking service here:
Find Your Local Stop Smoking Service (LSSS) – Better Health – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Having a balanced diet will ensure your body and heart can stay as healthy as possible.
- Try to eat five different fruits and vegetables per day.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat less sugary and saturated fat-filled foods.
- Always have breakfast.
- Choose to eat high fibre carbohydrates.
Lower your alcohol intake
- Aim to not exceed 14 units of alcohol a week.
- Try alcohol alternatives like mocktails.
- Make a gradual plan and stick to it.
- Try drinking less strong drinks or less of them.
Professor Sanjay Sharma, says that ‘150 minutes of exercise a week, preferably in the form of a brisk walk, is exceptionally good for us, not only improving our cardiovascular systems, but reducing our risk of some cancers, improving mental health and slowing down some of the ageing process.’BBC Two – Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, Series 4, Episode 4 – How much is too much… exercise?
Although it can be difficult to stay active at work, there are lots of ways to fit exercise in. This can be anything from standing up at work, walking to the office or even getting a dog!
If you have an extremely high risk of developing CVD, your doctor might recommend you take medication.
There are many different types of medication for this condition. Each has a different use.
The main types are:
- Statins which can help lower cholesterol levels
- Aspirin that prevents blood clots
- Blood pressure tablets
If you found this World Heart Day article helpful to read, check out the following post:
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