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Heart Disease - what you need to know

Your risk of heart disease increases as you get older, but you can help protect yourself whatever your age. In this blog I’ll be looking at how to spot the signs of heart disease and keep your heart in good shape. Coronary heart disease is the UK’s biggest cause of death, causing nearly 70,000 deaths in 2012. More than 1 in 10 women, and 1 in 7 men, die from the disease in the UK alone. Remember that your heart is incredibly important it beats on average 72 times a minute pumping oxygen and nutrient rich blood around the body whilst also removing the waste products we don’t need at the same time, it’s the biggest muscle in the body and we need to look after it. Often one of the first signs of coronary heart disease is that you develop chest pains known as angina - this happens because your arteries are becoming so narrow not enough blood can reach your heart muscle. The pain can often feel heavy and tight around the centre of the chest, and can make its way from your chest into your jaw, arm and /or neck. The pain is most notable through stress, during exercise or when you eat a heavy meal and lasts a few minutes. When you experience an angina attack you may also sweat heavily and feel sick or short of breath (you can also experience palpitations which can make you very aware of your heartbeat). If you experience any of the above symptoms you should call an ambulance immediately as it could lead to a heart attack. Developing heart disease is partly out of your control due to factors such as age and family history, however lifestyle also has a significant impact; Unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle choices such as smoking count for around one third of deaths in the UK. The risk is drastically increased if you have a high blood pressure and cholesterol - this can be caused by smoking, and having too much saturated fat, salt and sugar in your diet. The good news is you can reduce your risk by making simple changes:

  • Quitting smoking can significantly decrease the risk heart disease soon after you stop.

  • Keeping a healthy weight by eating healthy and exercising regularly (remember being underweight can be just as dangerous as being overweight).

  • Going to see the doctor regularly for check-ups such as blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes risk by catching these problems early and taking prescribed medication can keep these conditions under control.

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