Love struck with the Cupid’s bow? Here are some tips to keep that heart healthy!
When we talk about the heart, we generally mean emotions and love but have you thought about the role of the physical heart? The heart plays a vital role in our body – pumping blood to our organs. It is very important to know how to take care of your heart and what risk factors could potentially lead to heart disease.
There are different types of heart disease including congenital heart disease, which is a disease that develops before a baby is born. Inherited heart disease, is passed on through families i.e. it is in your genes. There is also angina, heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmias which all fall under the heart conditions category. In today’s blog, I will be talking about general heart health and risk factors for heart conditions that are developed later in life. However, if you require more information or advice on congenital/inherited heart disease, please call our pharmacists.
To start off, here are some facts from the British Heart Foundation.
CVD statistics - BHF UK factsheet, British Heart Foundation, viewed 12 February 2018, https://www.bhf.org.uk/research/heart-statistics/heart-statistics-publications
Heart disease can affect people of any age and can be potentially life threatening if left untreated.
A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood round your body, commonly because of a problem with electrical signals in your heart.
When your heart stops pumping blood, your brain is starved of oxygen. This causes you to fall unconscious and stop breathing.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common abnormal heart rhythm that happens when electrical impulses fire off from different places in the atria (the top chambers of the heart) in a disorganised way. This causes the atria to twitch and feels as an irregular heartbeat or pulse. Atrial fibrillation is a major cause of stroke.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD), previously called ischaemic heart disease, is when your coronary arteries become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls. These arteries supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. Atherosclerosis is another name given to the build-up of fatty material inside your arteries.
Having heart failure means that for some reason your heart is not pumping blood around the body as well as it used to.
The most common reason is that your heart muscle has been damaged, for example after a heart attack. It can be very frightening to hear that you or a person close to you has heart failure.
A stroke is life-threatening. If you or anyone else is having a stroke, you should phone 999 for an ambulance immediately.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off, causing your brain cells to become damaged or die.
A heart attack happens when there is a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of your heart muscle. Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease. A heart attack is life-threatening. If you think you or anyone else is having a heart attack, call 999 for an ambulance immediately (see below for signs). If you’re not sure, it’s still important to seek medical attention to be on the safe side.
When to call 999
The list is non-exhaustive, these are just a few examples. If you think you may be suffering from a heart condition speak to your GP or a pharmacist for more information. If you think you have the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, you must call 999 immediately (please see below).
Tips to prevent heart disease
Alcohol is one of the main risk factors of heart disease. The recommended weekly allowance for men and women is 14 units. Drinking more than the recommended weekly allowance will increase your risk and affect your overall health negatively. It can cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure damage to your heart muscle and other diseases such as stroke, liver problems and some cancers. Alcohol is also high in calories so it can lead to weight gain. It also lowers your inhibitions which might mean you find it harder to stick to your healthy eating plans when you have been drinking.
There is no evidence to suggest that stress causes coronary heart disease or heart attacks. But if you have coronary heart disease and experience feelings of anxiety or are under lots of stress, it may bring on symptoms like angina. Every individual has a different coping mechanism and stress may lead to over eating, smoking or drinking too much alcohol which can have a negative effect on your heart.
Research shows that reaching and keeping to a healthy weight cuts your risk of heart disease because it helps prevent and manage conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes that put you at greater risk of coronary heart disease. Even if you don't have any of these conditions, it's important to keep to a healthy weight so you don't develop them in the future.Your shape, as much as your weight, can affect your health risk. Fat around your middle can increase your risk of getting heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. That's because these fat cells produce toxic substances that cause damage to your body.
Smoking is also one of the main risk factors of heart disease. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked.Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health. Stopping smoking has huge benefits and it’s never too late to give up. If you need help or support with quitting, contact our pharmacists for advice.
Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It can also help you control your weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health – helping you to look and feel great.
- Healthy Eating
A healthy diet means eating a variety of foods that give your body the essential nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy. It can reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory disease and protect you from a huge range of life-threatening illnesses as you get older.
It can help reduce your risk of high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. It will also help you keep your weight at a healthy level. The short term effects are great too. You’ll have more energy and sleep better.
No single food contains all the essential nutrients the body needs such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Therefore, our diets should contain a variety of foods to give your body different types of nutrients and different amounts of energy. How much of each food type you eat also matters.
The best way to understand it is to think of foods in these groups:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
- Dairy and alternatives
- Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates
- Oils and spreads
- Foods high in fat and sugar
We need to have more foods in some groups and less in others. More fruit, vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, fibre-rich foods and fresh products, and fewer fatty, sugary, salty and processed foods.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A STROKE
If you notice signs of a stroke - call 999
Act F.A.S.T to recognise the signs:
- Facial weakness – can they smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
- Arm weakness – can they raise both arms?
- Speech problems – can they speak clearly and can they understand what you are saying?
- Time – it's time to call 999 immediately if you see any of these symptoms
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A HEART ATTACK
Heart attack symptoms vary from one person to another. The most common signs of a heart attack are:
- Pain or discomfort in your chest that suddenly occurs and doesn’t go away.
- The pain may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back or stomach. For some people the pain or tightness is severe, while other people just feel uncomfortable.
- You may also feel sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.
It’s possible to have a heart attack without experiencing ‘classic’ chest pain. This is more common in the elderly, women or those with diabetes, as the condition can cause nerve damage which can affect how you feel pain.
During a heart attack there is also the risk of having a cardiac arrest. This is when your heart stops pumping blood and normal breathing stops.