Your heart is located in your thoracic cavity (your chest), and from this location, it continuously pumps five litres of blood around the body.
With the average heart beating up to 100,000 times a day, it’s fair to say that this organ (which is about the size of a clenched fist) is the body’s powerhouse. With all the work your heart does for you, it makes sense to treat it well.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease (CVD), occurs when a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood and when it hardens, it narrows these arteries (this is known as arteriosclerosis).
The coronary arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood around the body, and when blood flow is restricted by plaque deposits, it can cause strain on the heart muscles. This can lead to symptoms like chest pain (angina) and increases a person's risk of heart attack (cardiac arrest).
If plaque buildup completely blocks the arteries or weakens the artery walls causing a rupture, it may cause a stroke.
Dangers of heart disease
Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death and disability in Ireland. If you have CVD, you are at risk of:
- Angina (chest pain)
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Gangrene if blood supply to a limb is blocked
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
There are two types of risk factors for heart disease, modifiable and unmodifiable. Unmodifiable risk factors include:
- Age Risk of CVD increases with age in both men and women
- Menopausal The single most specific risk factor for women is hormonal status, with the chances of developing CVD rising sharply after the menopause
- Family History If you have a family history of CVD, or if a parent or sibling has died from a heart attack or stroke, your risk of developing CVD is significantly increased
- Race People who have an Asian or African background are more at risk of developing CVD
Modifiable risk factors (i.e. things you can change) include:
- High Blood Pressure High blood pressure can sometimes have no symptoms, but if you have it, you’re more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a stroke. Make sure to have your blood pressure checked regularly
- Cholesterol High levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood can leave to plaque build-up, which narrows the arteries
- Smoking Smokers are twice as likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than non-smokers. There are many reasons why smoking is bad for your heart. Including:
- Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up of plaque which causes CVD.
- The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means your heart must pump harder to supply the body with the oxygen it needs.
- Nicotine stimulates your body to produce adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder.
- If you smoke your blood is more likely to clot, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things that you can do for your heart. Call into any CarePlus Pharmacy to discuss starting your journey to a healthier you!
- Diabetes People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who don't. Keeping your diabetes under control will help protect your heart health; call into your local CarePlus Pharmacy if you have any questions about controlling your diabetes
- Weight Being overweight can increase your risk of CVD. People who are overweight or obese, have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and Type 2 Diabetes, all of which increase your chances of developing CVD
What you can do to reduce your risk of developing heart disease?
As mentioned earlier, both modifiable and unmodifiable risk factors can lead to the development of CVD. There’s a lot that you can do to substantially reduce your risk of developing heart disease, including:
- Quitting smoking. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack versus a non-smoker. Call into your local CarePlus and our Quit Team will help you decide the best method to help you quit for good
- Improve cholesterol levels. To help lower cholesterol levels, eat a diet low in saturated fat and refined sugars. Drop into your CarePlus Pharmacist if you would like to know more about how you can control your cholesterol.
- Control high blood pressure. Make sure to get your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to make sure that you are eating well, exercising as much as possible, and taking any medication as directed.
- Get active. People who don't exercise are more likely to get heart disease and die from it than people who are active. Check with your CarePlus Pharmacist or doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you are not active now.
- Follow a heart-healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol. This includes; fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and other plant-based foods. Fibre is good for your cholesterol, and you'll get vitamins the natural way, from foods.
If you are worried about your risk of developing heart disease, call into your local CarePlus Pharmacy today. You can speak with one of our friendly pharmacists in the privacy of our Consultation Room.