Your heart is a pump the size of a fist that sends blood around the body
What is coronary heart disease?
Your heart needs its own blood supply to keep working. Heart disease occurs when the arteries that carry this blood, known as coronary arteries, start to become blocked by a build-up of fatty deposits.
CHD causes round 74,000 deaths each year. That’s an average of 200 people every day
In the UK, there are an estimated 2.3 million people living with the condition
About one in six men and one in nine women die from the disease
Death rates are highest in Scotland and northern England
In the past couple of decades, deaths from CHD have nearly halved due to better treatments
The plaques narrow the arteries and reduce the space through which blood can flow. They can also block nutrients being delivered to the artery walls, which means the arteries lose their elasticity. In turn, this can lead to high blood pressure, which also increases the risk of heart disease. This same process goes on in the arteries throughout the body, and can lead to high blood pressure which puts further strain on the heart.
If your arteries are partially blocked you can experience angina – severe chest pains that can spread across your upper body – as your heart struggles to keep beating on a restricted supply of oxygen. You are also at greater risk of a heart attack.
However, in the past couple of decades deaths from coronary heart disease have nearly halved, thanks to better treatments.
What happens during a heart attack?
A heart attack happens when one of the coronary arteries becomes completely blocked. This usually happens when a plaque, which is already narrowing an artery, cracks or splits open. This triggers the formation of a blood clot around the plaque, and it is this blood clot that then completely blocks the artery.
With their supply of oxygen completely blocked, the heart muscle and tissue supplied by that artery start to die. Emergency medical intervention is needed to unblock the artery and restore blood flow. This may consist of treatment with drugs to dissolve the clot or thrombus, or a small operation done through the skin and blood vessels to open up the blocked artery.
The outcome of a heart attack hinges on the amount of the muscle that dies before it is corrected. The smaller the area affected, the greater the chance of survival and recovery.
Other heart diseases
Other diseases that commonly affect the heart include:
Chronic heart failure – CHD is one of the main causes of heart failure. It affects around one million people in the UK, and many more have it but haven’t been formally diagnosed. Here, the heart doesn’t works effectively as a pump, and fluid gathers in the lower limbs and lungs. This causes a variety of symptoms and significantly reduces quality of life.
Infection – bacterial infections such as endocarditis are much rarer these days thanks to antibiotics, but can damage the valves of the heart as well as other tissues. Viral infections can damage the heart muscle leading to heart failure, or cause abnormal heart rhythms.
Congenital heart disease – a number of defects can develop in the heart as a baby grows in the womb. One example is a hole in the heart, also known as a septal defect. Congenital heart disease may cause abnormal blood flow and put excessive strain on the infant’s heart after it has been born.
Cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart muscle that can occur for different reasons, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, viral infection, high alcohol intake and thyroid disease. – Source..BBC
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