12 Common
Health Conditions

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About Coronary Heart Disease

heart

Your heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It pumps blood around your body to keep you alive.

Blood flows to and from the heart through tubes called arteries.

The heart gets its own supply of blood through tubes on the heart’s surface – these are called coronary arteries.

Sometimes blood cannot flow properly through these tubes to the heart because fatty substances block them.

This is known as coronary heart disease.

Coronary heart disease is a big cause of death.

What causes heart disease?

Coronary heart disease can be caused by:

  • Smoking

  • Having high cholesterol – this means you have too much fat in your body from eating too much fatty food.

  • Having high blood pressure – this is a measure of how much force your heart uses to pump blood around your body. High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart.

  • Not doing regular exercise.

  • Having diabetes – this is when there is too much sugar in your blood.

  • Being overweight.

  • Having a family member with chronic heart disease.

A healthy lifestyle can help you to make the risk of getting heart disease smaller. Try to:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

  • Keep active by doing things like walking and swimming.

  • Stop smoking (if you smoke).

What Are The Symptoms Of Coronary Heart Disease?

Symptoms are signs that something is wrong. The symptoms of coronary heart disease can include:

  • Chest pain (called angina) – this is the most common symptom of coronary heart disease.

This can be a mild, uncomfortable feeling in your chest.

Or it can be a painful feeling of heaviness or tightness, usually in the middle of your chest.

Angina often happens when you have been using your body to do things like running, exercise or heavy lifting.

  • Heart palpitations – this feels like your heart is pounding, fluttering, or beating at different speeds.

  • Feeling breathless.

  • Having a heart attack – this usually feels like strong chest pain. You might also feel:

  • Pain in other parts of your body.

  • Light headed.

  • Sweaty.

  • Sick.

  • Breathless.
  • Heart failure – this is when your heart stops working. It becomes too weak to pump blood around your body.

Testing to see if you have coronary heart disease

If your doctor thinks you might have coronary heart disease, they will do some tests. This will include:

  • Asking you questions about your medical and family history.

  • Asking you questions about your lifestyle, like what food you eat and what exercise you do.

  • A blood test.

  • A check of your blood pressure (a measure of how much force your heart uses to pump blood around your body).

The doctor might then send you for some more tests.

This could include x-rays and scans.

Treatment and Care For Coronary Heart Disease

Treatment

Coronary heart disease can’t be cured (made to go away).

Treatment can help to manage your symptoms and help you to feel better.

Treatment can also help to make the risk of getting heart disease or having a heart attack smaller.

Treatment can include:

  • Changing your lifestyle.

  • Taking medicine.

  • Having an operation.

You can change your lifestyle by:

  • Doing more exercise.

  • Eating more healthily.

  • Stopping smoking (if you smoke).

You might need to take medicine. There are lots of different medicines your doctor might give you.

Your doctor might ask you to try different medicines until they find the one that works best for you.

You must not stop taking heart medicines without speaking to your doctor as this can make you ill.

You might need to have an operation. There are some different types of operation:

  • Having treatment to widen arteries blocked with fatty substances – this is called angioplasty.

  • Having treatment to help blood flow a different way to your heart, instead of through the blocked artery – this is called bypass surgery.

  • Having your heart replaced with a healthy heart from a donor (someone who agrees for their heart to be given to someone else when they die) – this is called a heart transplant. Not many people need to have a heart transplant.

Getting better

If you have a heart attack or have surgery, your life may be different.

But after a while your life may go back to normal.

If you have surgery there is a team of people who will support you to get better – they are called the cardiac rehabilitation team.

They will visit you in hospital and may visit you when you are back at home.

Once you feel better, it is important that you exercise and eat healthily. This will help to protect your heart.

You might like to talk to other people who have heart problems. Ask your GP for information about a support group you could join.

If you can’t go back to work after having heart surgery, you may be able to get benefit money to help you. Contact the Disability Service Centre

Making the risk of getting heart disease smaller

A healthy lifestyle can help you to make the risk of getting heart disease smaller.

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet:

Try to eat lots of fibre. Fibre is found in foods like wholegrain breakfast cereals, fruit and vegetables.

Try to eat foods high in unsaturated fat like oily fish, nuts and seeds.

Try not to eat too much salt.

Try not to eat foods high in saturated fat like meat pies, sausages, butter, cream, hard cheese, cakes and biscuits.

Try not to eat too much sugar.

  • Keep active by doing things like walking and swimming – this makes your heart work harder and keeps it healthy.

  • Keep to a healthy weight – you can speak to your GP to find out what a healthy weight is for you.

  • Take any medicine your doctor has given you.

  • Stop smoking (if you smoke) – ask your GP for help.

Do not drink too much alcohol.

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