Coronary heart disease

This is one of the most common forms of heart disease which is also the number one cause of deaths in the UK. It is caused by a variety of factors which include high blood pressure.

What is it?

Blood is circulated around your body by your heart. This circulation transports oxygen and vital nutrients to various organs via a network of veins and arteries. This is essential for the body to function.

The heart is nourished by a series of blood vessels on its surface called coronary arteries.

But this blood supply can be blocked by the build up of fatty deposits within the arteries which cause these to harden and clog up. These fatty deposits (usually cholesterol) narrow the arteries which restricts blood flow through them to areas of body, e.g. the heart.

A partial blockage within these arteries will result in chest pains or angina.

However, a complete blockage of an artery will result in a heart attack. This is also known as a myocardial infarction.

Causes of coronary heart disease

High blood pressure is one of them but others include:

  • High cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history of angina or heart disease
  • Overweight or obese

You are also at risk of coronary heart disease if you suffer from diabetes or thrombosis.

Symptoms of coronary heart disease

Angina is often a warning of coronary heart disease which takes the form of pains in the chest, jaw and arm. It is a similar feeling to indigestion.

Angina is a symptom of a partially blocked artery but an artery which is completely blocked will cause a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include a severe pain in the chest, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and sweating.

Treatment for coronary heart disease

Research into innovative forms of treatment for coronary heart disease mean that this can be managed very efficiently. Treatment includes clot busting drugs, statins, beta blockers and anti-coagulants such as Warfarin.

Surgery is another option which includes an angiogram, coronary artery bypass of a heart transplant. You will also have to make some lifestyle changes which include a diet low in saturated fat and salt, taking exercise, stopping smoking and controlling your blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease so it is important to keep this under control. Your GP will be able to advise you further about this.

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