What is heart disease?
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is a widely used term which encompasses a variety of conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke, diseases of the heart and blood vessels and heart failure.
The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood and oxygen. These arteries can become narrower due to a gradual build up of fatty deposits, this process is known as atherosclerosis. Over time the arteries can become so narrow that not enough blood gets to the heart muscle. If the narrowed artery becomes blocked by a blood clot, this causes a heart attack.
Factors that increase the risk of developing heart disease
• Unhealthy diet high in salt and fat, particularly saturated fat
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol levels
• Lack of exercise
• Being overweight
• Excess alcohol consumption
How to reduce your risk of developing heart disease
Eat a healthy diet that is low in fat, especially saturated fat, low in salt and high in a variety of fruit and vegetables and fibre.
Stop smoking to significantly reduce your risk of getting heart disease.
Exercise regularly – not being physically active is the most common risk factor for heart disease. Becoming more active improves your physical and mental health as well as helping to protect your heart by controlling weight, improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. Consult your GP before you start exercising.
Drink in moderation - regular moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke mainly in men aged over 40 years and in post-menopausal women, when the risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke significantly increase. Binge drinking, significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.
Control diabetes - people with diabetes have a higher chance of developing heart disease and high blood pressure. The risk of problems will be greatly reduced by controlling blood glucose and blood pressure, eating healthily and taking regular physical exercise.