Taking care of your heart

February is National Heart Month. We spoke to Consultant Cardiologist Dr Sandy Gupta MD FRCP to find out more about healthy heart awareness.

According to the British Heart Foundation every 7 minutes, someone in the UK has a heart attack.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the main cause and can be a devastating disease, causing around 200 deaths per day, many of which are potentially avoidable.

In our Q&A, Dr Sandy Gupta, Consultant Cardiologist at Whipps Cross/BartsHealth NHS Trust and The Holly private hospital outlines how you can take care of your heart.

Am I at risk of Coronary heart disease (CHD)?
‘’The common risk factors for developing CHD include:

  • cigarette smoking
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • high cholesterol
  • hypertension
  • family history.”

What are the symptoms of CHD?
“Chest discomfort, breathlessness or arm ache are strong clues of angina (where the coronary arteries become narrow or blocked). Sometimes people have very few symptoms and the key is a screening health check.”

Are women or men more likely to suffer CHD?
“Whilst men are more susceptible to CHD, women quickly catch up after the menopause. It may surprise you to learn that females are up to 5 times more at risk of developing CHD than breast cancer.”

How big a problem is blood cholesterol?
“An estimated 6 out of 10 adults in the UK have high total cholesterol. Adapting dietary habits can help people to lower cholesterol but many still need ‘statin’ medication, especially if they have other risk factors.”

How important is cigarette smoking a factor for CHD?
“Around 10 million adults smoke in the UK but the good news is that smoking rates have come down to around 20% of the population.

Smokers are 60% more likely to die from heart disease than non-smokers. If you want to reduce future risk of heart disease – quit from today.”

What about alcohol and heart disease?
“There is some limited evidence that small quantities of alcohol (within national guidelines) may provide some heart protection… but be wary that in excess chronic alcohol intake may risk heart muscle problems, heart rhythm disturbances and poor blood pressure control.”

Are there any other important factors to think about?
“Exercise and physical activity are vital. You should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity at least 5 times a week.

Knowing your blood pressure (BP) is equally important as hypertension is often ‘silent’ and only diagnosed with a monitor check. Be wary of the link between obesity, too much salt and alcohol with high BP.
Growing obesity and diabetes rates are a well-known problem but are also strong risk factors for CHD. Examining and tweaking your ‘food diary’, cutting calories and adopting a ‘Mediterranean-style’ diet can help to reduce future risk.”

What should I do if I am worried about developing chronic heart disease?
The first step is to talk to your doctor, especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described.  

You  might want to ask about a ‘health check’ as part of GP screening where they can focus on key things like BP, blood cholesterol and a trace of the heart (an ECG) plus discuss your risk factors.

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist Consultant Cardiologist if you require further tests such as 24-hour BP monitoring, a heart ultrasound (Echocardiogram), an X-ray of the coronary arteries (CT Coronary Calcium Score) or even a detailed non-invasive Cardiac MRI scan.

Dr Sandy Gupta MD FRCP, Consultant Cardiologist works at Whipps Cross/BartsHealth NHS Trusts and holds clinics every Monday and Thursday evenings at The Holly.

Date: 01/02/2016