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What is Coronary Heart Disease?

What is Coronary Heart Disease?

Coronary heart disease usually begins with atherosclerosis. This is where the coronary arteries that carry blood to your heart become narrowed.

If there is a sudden blockage in one of those arteries, a heart attack happens because the blood supply to your heart muscle is cut off. This blockage can be caused by atherosclerosis, or by a blood clot forming (a thrombosis). In some cases, the blockage may be caused by a combination of atherosclerosis and thrombosis.

Sometimes atherosclerosis can cause angina, which is a severe pain in your chest. This pain may spread into your neck and arms. This pain is like a "cramp" in the heart muscles, caused when they do not get enough oxygen. This usually happens during a period of exertion or stress, and is normally relieved by resting.

What causes coronary heart disease?

There are several things that can increase your risk of developing heart disease. These include:

Cigarette smoking

High blood pressure

Eating an unhealthy diet

Lack of exercise



If you have a family history of coronary heart disease

How common is Coronary Heart Disease?

The United Kingdom has one of the highest rates of coronary heart disease in the world.

In the United Kingdom:

One in four men dies from coronary heart disease!

One in three women dies from coronary heart disease!

In 2000, over 150,000 people in the United Kingdom died from coronary heart disease. This is equal to 17 people every hour! Every year millions of working days in the United Kingdom are lost because of illnesses associated with coronary heart disease. In 1996, the NHS spent £160 million treating coronary heart disease!

It is a common myth that people of a higher social status are more likely to develop coronary heart disease. In fact people on a low income are more likely to develop coronary heart disease. The problem of heart disease is so widespread in the UK that we have to start thinking of coronary heart disease as a public health issue- a problem that could affect us all!

Can Coronary Heart Disease be prevented?

Many things contribute to the development of coronary heart disease. Some of these things are beyond our control such as age and having a family history of coronary heart disease.

Doing some of the following may help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Avoid being overweight

Don't smoke or stop smoking if you are a smoker

Take regular exercise

Eat less salt in your diet

Eat more fruit and vegetables

Avoid drinking too much alcohol

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, make sure you take medicines prescribed by your doctor.

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