Being aware of your heart health

To mark National Health Month, we are sharing our expertise on some heart conditions we should all be aware of as well as sharing tips and advice on preventative measures and how you can best look after your heart.

HCA Healthcare UK are privileged to work with more than 180 cardiovascular consultants from leading teaching hospitals. Caring for patients from around the world, they are experts in all aspects of cardiac care.

We offer a variety of heart treatments, ranging from simple cases to complex surgeries. 

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

Cardiovascular disease is often associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots. The good news is, CVD can often largely be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle.

What are the types of cardiovascular disease?

There are many different kinds of cardiovascular disease, with some of the most common ones being:

1. Coronary heart disease - when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked or reduced. This strain may lead to angina, heart attacks and heart failure.

2. Strokes and transient ischaemic attack (also called a TIA or "mini-stroke").

3. Peripheral arterial disease - when there's a blockage in the arteries to the limbs.

4. Aortic disease – when a number of conditions affect the largest blood vessel in the body

We take a thorough approach to managing cardiovascular disease – from initial symptoms through to interventional treatment. Our specialists ensure that all contributory factors, from lifestyle to genetic testing, are addressed. 

Cardiovascular disease – Kashif’s story

Kashif Aziz was diagnosed with a completely blocked right coronary artery after struggling with breathlessness and fatigue. Here, Professor James Spratt and Dr Jonathan Hill, Consultant Interventional Cardiologists at London Bridge Hospital, perform an operation to unblock this artery.

What are the different cardiac symptoms?

  • Angina symptoms icon plus

    Angina is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles. It's not usually life-threatening, but it's a warning sign that you could be at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

    With treatment and healthy lifestyle changes, it's possible to control angina and reduce the risk of these more serious problems.

    The main symptom of angina is chest pain and it usually:

    • Feels tight, dull or heavy – it may spread to your left arm, neck, jaw or back
    • Is triggered by physical exertion or stress
    • Stops within a few minutes of resting 
    Sometimes there might be other symptoms, like feeling sick or breathless. 
  • Atrial fibrillation symptoms icon plus

    Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common abnormal heart rhythm condition in adults.

    The most obvious symptom of atrial fibrillation is heart palpitations – where the heart feels like it's pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of atrial fibrillation may include breathlessness, feeling faint or having chest pain. 

    However, many people don’t experience the above but simply feel tired, lethargic or less able to exercise without knowing why and often attributing it to old age. 

  • Heart failure symptoms icon plus

    When the heart is too weak or stiff to pump blood around the body properly, we call it heart failure.

    The most common symptoms of heart failure are:

    • Breathlessness after activity or at rest; it may be worse when you're lying down
    • Fatigue – you may feel tired most of the time and find exercise exhausting
    • Swollen ankles and legs – this is caused by a build-up of fluid
    However, symptoms of heart failure can vary from person to person and may also include things like a persistent cough, confusion, dizziness, a bloated stomach, changes in heart rate and others.

What is congenital heart disease?

Sometimes, a heart defect can develop in a baby before they have even been born – this is called congenital heart disease. At The Portland Hospital, our consultants perform complex operations to correct these birth defects, either straight after the baby is born, or in some cases when they’re a little older.

The type of surgery that the baby or child will require will depend on the type of heart defect that they have. 

Is atrial fibrillation dangerous?

Professor Mark O’ Neill, Consultant Cardiologist at The Heart Rhythm Clinic, located at The Harley Street Clinic, discusses atrial fibrillation and whether it can be dangerous if it isn’t effectively managed. 

Tips to help prevent heart disease

There are many things that you can do to prevent heart disease and ensure you have a healthy heart for many years to come. You can start making lifestyle changes right away, whatever your age! 

Some of these tips you will have heard before and we often dismiss them for being too simple. But if you actually see them through, these healthier choices will pay off in the long run.


  • Choose a healthy eating plan with plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, fibre-rich whole grains and fish.
    Also, try to eat some meals without meat, or at least limit your red meat consumption. Limit sugar and fatty dairy products whenever possible. 

  • Create and stick to a realistic exercise routine.
    Try to aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise (e.g. brisk walking) or 1.5 hours of intense exercise (e.g. running) a week. Additionally, try to add some muscle-strengthening activities a couple of times a week to work on the major muscle groups. 

  • Get regular health check-ups.
    This should be done regardless of your age. Talk to your doctor about your diet, lifestyle and check your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart rate and blood sugar levels on a regular basis. 

  • Avoid smoking.
    And even if you don’t smoke, if you are around other smokers you are up to 30% more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer from second-hand smoke exposure.

  • Know your family history.
    Does anyone in your immediate family have a history of heart disease? Knowing this can help you prepare and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent the same happening to you.

  • Manage your stress levels.
    Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls.

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