National Heart Month – The importance of a healthy heart

The importance of a healthy heart
February is National Heart Month and brings with it awareness that 7.6 million people in the UK are living with a heart or circulatory disease.

Having a heart condition can affect all areas of life, including work, family, driving and even simple daily tasks such as getting dressed. To mark National Heart Month, consultant cardiologist at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital, Dr Talwar talks about coronary heart disease, its symptoms and treatments. In addition, he highlights expert tips on how to care for heart health and prevent heart disease.

Coronary heart disease occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked or reduced by a build-up of fatty material inside the coronary arteries. When these arteries start to become narrow or block sufficient blood flow cannot get to the heart. This can result in a heart attack.

The main symptom of coronary heart disease is increasing chest pain or shortness of breath on exertion. The chest pain very often feels like a pressure or tightness across the chest, sometimes radiating to the arms or up the throat. These symptoms tend to get worse on exertion and improve with rest. Any new symptoms of chest pain or increasing breathlessness should not be ignored.

Traditional risk factors for coronary heart disease include a high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, family history of coronary heart disease, and being overweight. Plus, the risk of coronary heart disease increases with age, and men are generally at greater risk of coronary heart disease than women.

Coronary heart disease cannot be cured but treatment can manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of additional problems such as a heart attack. The most important treatment includes lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and stopping smoking. Those who have chest pain on exertion (angina) can often benefit from medication such as beta-blockers to improve symptoms and additional drug therapy such as aspirin and statins may be recommended.

For better heart health, Dr Talwar gives the following tips:

  • Be active – a combination of cardiovascular exercise and light weights exercise to increase muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  • Quit smoking – smoking damages the lining of the arteries, causes inflammation, and makes the blood more prone to clotting
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet – this can help lower cholesterol
  • Get weight down to a healthy level – a lower weight reduces the risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes
  • Ensure blood pressure is checked and under control
  • Have cholesterol checked by a GP if risk factors for heart disease exist

Dr Talwar is a consultant at Nuffield Health Bournemouth, specialising in coronary angioplasty, stenting, and complex coronary intervention. To book an appointment call 01202 702830.

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