The heart is a powerful muscle that pumps blood all over the body. In order to be healthy, the heart muscle needs oxygen and this is supplied through the blood by the coronary arteries.
Heart Disease occurs when the coronary arteries become narrowed by artherosclerosis. This is where the lining of the arteries gradually become 'furred-up' with fatty deposits known as atheroma or plaques.
Over time, the artery may become so narrow that it is unable to deliver enough oxygen-containing blood to the heart when demands are high, for example during physical exertion, and this is known as angina. Furthermore, the artheroma can attract blood cells that clot together blocking the artery off completely and starving the heart of oxygen causing permanent damage to the muscle. This is what happens during a heart attack.
Who is at risk of having heart disease?While all the causes of heart disease are still unknown, certain factors have been proven to increase your likelihood of getting it and these are known as risk factors:
- being overweight or obese - are you?
- lack of exercise - exercise more!
- high blood pressure - what is it?
- unhealthy diet - eat healthy!
- diabetes - what is it?
- high cholesterol
- family history
- high salt intake
- drinking too much alcohol
- age - risk increases with age
- ethnicity - some ethnic groups are at more risk than others
Some risk factors you cannot do very much about, such as your age or your ethnicity. However, you do have some control over your diet, weight and the amount of exercise you take - why not use the resources available to you on this site to minimise your risk factors?