Situated in the chest cavity under the breastbone, the
heart is approximately the size of an average fist. This small, muscular
organ contracts and relaxes thousands of times a day to pump blood
around the body through a network of vessels which stretch some 60,000
miles! Amazingly the heart functions as a double pump which has four
chambers, the upper right atrium, the upper left atrium, the lower
right ventricle and the lower left ventricle. The right side of the
heart is responsible for receiving blood low in oxygen and high in
carbon dioxide from the body via the veins and directing it to the
lungs to be oxygenated. The left side receives oxygenated blood from
the lungs and pumps it via the arteries around the body.
What is Heart Disease?
There are many forms of Heart Disease but the most common is Coronary
Artery Disease (CAD). Just as the body requires the circulation
of nutrients and oxygen to its different tissues, so does the heart.
The blood vessels that discharge this duty and cover the heart are
called the coronary arteries.
Healthy arteries are strong, elastic and flexible in nature and
have a smooth inside through which blood can flow easily. With age
arteries can become thicker, less elastic and residue can build
up in them. This general hardening of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis.
This gradual build up of fatty cholesterol and other substances
a narrowing of the arteries, resulting in strained blood flow. In
the case of coronary arteries this reduced blood flow means that
they can not supply the heart muscle/tissue with the amount of oxygenated
blood it requires. Under these circumstances a person can experience
symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue and shortness of breath when
they physically exert themselves.
This chest pain is described and known as angina. What is known
as stable angina is usually triggered by physical activity that
the heart's demand for oxygen. This type of angina is usually relieved
through rest or by taking a prescribed medicine such as nitro-glycerine.
Stable angina doesn’t usually last long, is often predictable
and does not normally require hospitalisation. Unstable angina is
a dangerous condition, characterised by a progressive increase in
the number, severity, or duration of episodes over a small period
of time. This type of angina can produce intense pain that lasts
longer and is brought on by less effort. Unstable angina is a disabling
that can lead on to a serious heart attack where the coronary arteries
become completely blocked.
What are the Risk Factors?
The risk factors comprise of characteristics and habits that can
increase the chances of developing coronary artery disease. Some
of these factors
can not be controlled, whilst others can. For instance we can not
control family history of heart ailments, race, age or gender which
are related to the onset of heart disease. However, we can help
control, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, reduce excess weight,
eat a healthy
diet, monitor stress levels, increase the level of exercise, stop
smoking cigarettes and control high blood pressure all of which
affect the condition of our heart and chances of developing CAD.
Treatment of coronary artery disease focuses on balancing the supply
of blood flow to the different parts of the heart that require it.
Different modes of treatment are available depending on the severity
and type of problem. Treatments include medications, angioplasty
and coronary bypass surgery. Reducing your risk of coronary disease
taking a detailed look at your controllable risk factors as mentioned
above and modify/changing the components that may put your heart
and health at risk.
Maintaining a sensible weight can help reduce your chances of developing
heart disease. Check whether you have a healthy weight on our BMI