What is it?
The heart is a powerful muscular pump that keeps the body supplied with the oxygen it needs. As with any pump things can go wrong. It may get tired and inefficient through over work or stutter because of problems with its electrical supply. The heart too needs a good supply of oxygen and suffers if it doesn't get enough.
If the heart doesn't get as much oxygen as it needs the result is chest pain, called angina. If the supply to part of the heart is cut off the result is a heart attack, called a myocardial infarction, or even sudden death.
Why does it happen?
Over time, the arteries become blocked or narrowed by fat deposited inside them. Being male; coming from an Asian or Afro-Caribbean background; or having someone in the family with heart problems makes this more likely. Unfortunately these risk factors can't be changed. Eating a high fat diet, not exercising enough, being overweight, stress, and smoking also make this narrowing more likely to happen. Fortunately, these can be avoided.
Can I stop it?
It's a tragedy that people are still dying from heart disease since for the most part it's preventable by:
- Not smoking.
- Exercising for 20-30 minutes at least 5 times a week.
- Maintaining an ideal weight.
- Eating a low fat, low calorie diet with at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to ensure a good intake of beta-carotene and vitamins C and E.
- Reducing stress.
Should I see doctor?
Yes. Every couple of years to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked and to be tested for diabetes. If you need help with loosing weight or stopping smoking, or you need general healthy living advice then your doctor or pharmacist will be able to help. It's particularly important to have a check-up if someone in your family has heart problems or if you are experiencing any symptoms such as chest pains or shortness of breath.
Problems with the heart can be treated:
- By following healthy living advice.
- With medication when appropriate.
- With surgery if symptoms persist despite other treatments.
What is it?