Heart Disease

Doctors and nurses are looking after people with heart disease to provide best current medical care.

However we also emphasise the need to adjust your lifestyle to prevent heart disease altogether, as we know that regular exercise, not smoking, a normal weight and healthy eating can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.

The term ‘heart disease’ usually means ‘coronary heart disease’ and refers to problems that are caused by narrowing of the blood vessels of the heart (‘coronary arteries’). This can lead to angina, heart attacks, heart failure and also to strokes if the narrowing affects the blood vessels of the brain.

For anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease an annual check-up is important to improve health and reduce further risk. The surgery will inform you about your forthcoming appointment.

Risk Factors

Everybody can get heart disease but certain risk factors increase the risk of developing heart disease. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Raised cholesterol
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Obesity
  • A strong family history of heart disease

Some of these risk factors cannot be changed; it is therefore even more important to address other risk factors.

Over time these can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels via the formation of fatty patches or ‘plaques’ that can reduce the blood supply to the heart. This can cause angina or a heart attack (‘myocardial infarct’).

Angina

Angina is a pain usually across the chest on exertion. It will normally disappear within 10 minutes when you are resting. Taking GTN Spray can sometimes stop it within 1-2 minutes.
Angina is usually identified through the history but a heart tracing (‘ECG’) and blood tests can be helpful.

Treatment is aimed at reducing the frequency of angina. Several medicines can be helpful e.g. b-blockers.

It is also important to reduce the ‘stickiness’ of blood platelets with Aspirin and lower cholesterol levels if they are raised.

Myocardial infarction

A heart attack is usually caused by a complete blockage of a coronary artery.  This leads to severe central chest pain which can travel to the jaw or left arm. This is an emergency and requires immediate hospital admission.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack call 999 immediately.Clot busting drugs are given to open the blocked blood vessel up in hospital.  Further treatment with medicines is also necessary. There are further techniques that can help to improve the blood supply to the heart that may be used.

The long term risks of heart attacks are heart failure due to a damaged heart and further heart attacks.