Being aware of your heart health

Created by the World Heart Federation, World Heart Day is day aimed at getting people all over the globe to take charge of their heart health.

To mark World Heart Day, we have collected articles from our teams of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons on everything from signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease to the ways you can improve your heart health. You can also read from some of our patients who have experienced heart issues and are on their way to better heart health.

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. 

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.

Do heart conditions run in the family?

Some heart conditions are inherited, meaning they can be passed on through a mutation in parents’ genes. These are called genetic heart conditions and can affect people at any age. Congenital heart conditions are those which have not been inherited but are present from birth.

Here Mr Conal Austin, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital, explains the differences between genetic and congenital heart conditions and how they are linked.

Learn more about congenital heart disease and paediatrics

How do I know if I have congenital heart disease?

Have you noticed that you have been experiencing symptoms such as palpitations, blackouts or chest pain? Or has a close family relative been recently affected by a heart complaint? It’s important that you speak to your GP or cardiologist to understand whether your genetic history could be the cause.

Hear from Professor Gerry Carr-White, Consultant Cardiologist at London Bridge Hospital, who answers the most Googled questions about inherited cardiac conditions.

Detecting underlying cardiac risks

We can now offer patients a new diagnostic testing technology – CaRi Heart – which can reveal how at risk someone is of having a heart attack in the future by measuring the inflammation of the blood vessels in and around the heart. Learn more about this innovation cardiac prevention technology, which is available at The Harley Street Clinic.
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