Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the UK’s biggest killer, causing around 82,000 deaths each year.
About one in five men and one in eight women die from the disease.
In the UK, there are an estimated 2.7 million people living with the condition and 2 million people affected by angina (the most common symptom of coronary heart disease). CHD generally affects more men than women, but from the age of 50 the chances of developing CHD are similar for men and women.
As well as angina (chest pain), the main symptoms of CHD are heart attacks and heart failure.
However, not everyone has the same symptoms and some people may not have any before CHD is diagnosed. CHD is sometimes called ischaemic heart disease.
About the heart
The heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It pumps blood around your body and beats approximately 70 times a minute.
After the blood leaves the right side of the heart, it goes to your lungs where it picks up oxygen.
The oxygen-rich blood returns to your heart and is then pumped to the organs of your body through a network of arteries.
The blood returns to your heart through veins before being pumped back to your lungs again.
This process is called circulation. The heart gets its own supply of blood
from a network of blood vessels on the surface of your heart, called coronary arteries.
Why does coronary heart disease happen?
Coronary heart disease is the term that describes what happens when your heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries.
Over time, the walls of your arteries can become furred up with fatty deposits.
This process is known as atherosclerosis and the fatty deposits are called atheroma. Atherosclerosis can be caused by lifestyle habits and other conditions, such as:
Diagnosing coronary heart disease
If your doctor feels you are at risk of CHD, they may carry out a risk assessment.
This involves asking about your medical and family history, your lifestyle and taking a blood test.
Further tests may be needed to confirm a diagnosis of CHD, including: – An Electrocardiogram (ECG) – An X-ray – An MRI Scan – A CT Scan – Coronary Angiography
Treating coronary heart disease
Although coronary heart disease cannot be cured, treatment can help manage
the symptoms and reduce the chances of problems such as heart attacks.
Treatment can include lifestyle changes, such as doing regular exercise and stopping smoking, as well as medication and surgery.
If you have problems such as a heart attack or have any heart surgery, it is possible to eventually resume your normal life.
Advice and support are available to help you deal with aspects of your life that may have been affected by CHD.
By making some simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of getting CHD.
These include: – Eating a Healthy, Balanced Diet – Being Physically Active – Giving up Smoking – Controlling Blood Cholesterol and Sugar Levels
Keeping your heart healthy will also have other health benefits, and help reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.