As we are living for a longer time, heart problems are becoming more relevant in the UK. The heart is working from around 3-4 weeks after we are conceived until the moment we die, and therefore it has a lot of work to do. Therefore, it is so important that we take care of our body and our heart, so that it can do its job effectively. Although heart problems are more common, there are also treatments and preventions available as our medical care is becoming more and more advanced. Here we take a look at four of the most common heart problems within the UK.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease, also known as CHD, is one of the major causes of death within both the UK and around the world. You may have also heard of CHD being called ischaemic heart disease. CHD is caused when your heart becomes blocked and the blood supply cannot travel through the heart as it was meant to. This may be a block where the blood cannot move at all, or the flow may be interrupted. This pause in blood flow is caused by fatty substances building up within the coronary arteries. This accumulation of fat deposits can be caused by diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol or blood pressure. If you are at risk due to family history, your doctor can perform tests to confirm a diagnosis. Treatment for CHD can include quitting smoking and exercising, medication and surgery.
Heart failure can happen to someone at any age, but it is more prevalent in older people. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood sufficiently around the body, usually because it has become stiff or too weak to do so. Having heart failure does not mean your heart is no longer working at all, rather it means that it needs the support to work properly again. This is a condition that is long-term and gradually gets worse over time. It usually isn’t a curable condition but can be controlled by medications and lifestyle changes. The main symptoms of heart failure are feeling fatigued especially when trying to exercise, swollen legs and breathlessness. The cause may be congenital, which means it happens due to a birth defect or it may be caused by other heart problems such as CHD.
One of the most common heart problems is a heart attack. You may know someone that has had a heart attack and if not, you are likely to have seen it on the television. A heart attack is medically known as a myocardial infarction. Symptoms can include nausea, heartburn and abdominal pain, cold sweats, fatigue and most commonly a pain or feeling of tightness across the chest and arms which can also spread to your jaw, neck or back. This is a medical emergency and needs treatment straight away, so if you or someone you know thinks they are having a heart attack you need to dial 999. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow around the heart is suddenly interrupted, usually caused by a clot. Blood not flowing around the heart properly can lead to serious damage to the muscles in the heart and is life-threatening. Heart attacks are usually treated with surgery and medication to get rid of blood clots and ensure blood flow is restored to the heart as soon as possible.
Atrial fibrillation, also known as AF, is a condition in which the heart does not beat in the regular sinus rhythm. This is due to an electrical charge that changes the regular impulses of the heart and can cause the heart to beat frantically. This is a very common heart problem in the UK and one in four people will have AF in their lifetime. The reason AF can be so dangerous is due to the increased risk of strokes. As AF changes the way the heart works, it increases the chance of a blood clot forming which can travel to the brain. A blood clot in the brain can then cause a stroke. The main symptoms of AF are fatigue, feeling short of breath and palpitations. If you have been diagnosed with AF and want to ensure you get the best medical treatment, visit a trained physician with plenty of experience such as Dr Syed Ahsan, a cardiologist for the London Heart Clinic who takes a special interest in heart conditions that cause rhythmic disorders, which is what AF does.
Many heart conditions can be prevented or controlled by leading a healthy and active lifestyle and quitting smoking. This is not always the case, though, as some heart conditions are genetic or congenital. If you have a family history of any of the above heart problems or one that isn’t listed here, speak to your doctor about having further tests.