GENERAL HEART DISEASE KNOW THE FACTS

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1 GENERAL HEART DISEASE KNOW THE FACTS

2 WHAT IS Heart disease is a broad term meaning any disease affecting the heart. It is commonly used to refer to coronary heart disease (CHD), a more specific term to describe reduced blood supply to the myocardium (heart muscle) caused by plaques (fatty deposits) in the coronary arteries (the blood vessels which supply the heart muscle). CORONARY HEART DISEASE CAN LEAD TO ANGINA OR ACUTE MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION (COMMONLY KNOWN AS HEART ATTACK). CORONARY HEART DISEASE IS ALSO KNOWN AS CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE (CAD) AND ISCHAEMIC HEART DISEASE (IHD). CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE (CVD) DESCRIBES A WIDE RANGE OF CONDITIONS WHICH AFFECT THE HEART AND/OR THE BLOOD VESSELS. CVD IS OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE CORONARY HEART DISEASE (INCLUDING ANGINA AND HEART ATTACK), AS WELL AS STROKE. ACUTE CORONARY SYNDROME (ACS) IS ANOTHER TERM USED TO DESCRIBE THE SUDDEN LOSS OF BLOOD SUPPLY TO THE HEART MUSCLE, INCLUDING HEART ATTACK. Healthdirect 2

3 HOW COMMON IS CORONARY The coronary heart disease risk factors that cannot be changed are: Increasing age A family history of heart disease The coronary heart disease risk factors that can be changed are: Smoking, including passive smoking High blood cholesterol High blood pressure Diabetes Lack of physical activity Coronary heart disease is the single leading cause of death in Australia. It claims a staggering 54 Australians each day or one Australian every 27 minutes. Being above a healthy weight Excessive alcohol consumption Anxiety, depression and social isolation WHAT CAUSES CORONARY Coronary heart disease is caused by a process called atherosclerosis. In the heart, this is the build up of fatty deposits in the inner wall of the coronary arteries over time, leading to reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. It may result in chest pain or angina. These plaques are also at risk of rupture and the formation of thrombosis (a blood clot) which can suddenly stop blood flow to the heart muscle, causing the heart muscle to begin to die. This is known as acute coronary syndrome or more commonly, a heart attack. Atherosclerosis is a gradual process that is largely preventable in most people. While some risk factors cannot be changed, most can be reduced and even reversed by adopting a healthy lifestyle. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CORONARY Many of the causes of heart disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol can develop slowly over many years without causing symptoms. People with coronary heart disease develop angina (chest pain on exertion). Sometimes a heart attack is the first sign of coronary heart disease. Symptoms of angina include: Pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest when exercising or on exertion which is relieved by rest Pain or discomfort in the arms, left shoulder, elbows, jaw or back when exercising or on exertion which is relieved by rest Angina generally indicates the presence of coronary heart disease and an increased risk of heart attack. 3

4 Symptoms of a heart attack include: Pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest Pain or discomfort in the arms, left shoulder, elbows, jaw or back Shortness of breath Nausea or vomiting Dizziness or fainting Cold sweats Becoming pale Women s symptoms of heart attack can be unusual. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain than men. A heart attack is a medical emergency and anyone experiencing chest pain or other warning signs that are severe, get worse quickly or last more than ten minutes should seek medical help immediately. IF YOU SUSPECT A HEART ATTACK CALL TRIPLE ZERO (000) AND ASK FOR AN AMBULANCE. 000 HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE CORONARY The following tests can be used to help diagnose heart disease: Electrocardiogram (ECG) in which electrical leads on the chest, arms and legs are used to detect electrical impulses travelling through the heart Stress ECG, or exercise ECG, which measures the electrical impulses in your heart while you are exercising on a treadmill or stationary bike Echocardiogram, which uses ultrasound waves to create a picture of your heart Stress echocardiogram, an ultrasound of your heart while exercising Angiogram, an X-ray using dye that shows if there is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries Cardiac MRI HOW IS CORONARY HEART DISEASE TREATED? VARIOUS MEDICATIONS ARE AVAILABLE TO TREAT CORONARY HEART DISEASE AND ITS RISK FACTORS, SUCH AS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL. Your doctor can help you assess your level of risk for heart disease. This may include checking for risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high glucose levels. Medications are generally taken long term and may include: Medications to control blood pressure, including ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers Medications to reduce cholesterol, such as statins Medications to dilate the blood vessels, such as nitrates Medications to prevent harmful blood clotting, such as aspirin, warfarin and clopidogrel 4

5 Other treatments may include: Angioplasty. First, a small balloon tipped catheter is inserted inside one or more of the coronary arteries, which have become very narrow. The catheter is then inflated one or more times until the artery is opened wide enough to improve blood flow to the heart Stents. A coronary stent is a small piece of stainless steel mesh that is inserted into a coronary artery after angioplasty. The stent is usually then left in the artery to keep it open Coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) involves taking a blood vessel from the leg, chest or arm and grafting it to the coronary arteries. This improves blood supply to the heart through a detour around the blockage a bypass Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) can be inserted into the chest and connected to the heart. They are designed for people at high risk of developing abnormal fast rhythms (arrhythmias). ICDs detect and treat life threatening abnormal heart rhythms. ICDs correct heart rates that are fast or slow, and can even give your heart a small electric shock to try to return it to its normal rhythm if necessary HOW DO I PREVENT CORONARY A healthy lifestyle will reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and its complications. A healthy lifestyle includes: Being active and engaging in regular, gentle exercise, such as walking Eating healthy food including vegetables, wholegrains, fruit, nuts and seeds, oily fish, poultry and lean meat, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Limiting processed foods, particularly foods high in sugar, salt and fat, and drinking mainly water Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight Quitting smoking and avoiding passive smoking Consuming alcohol in moderation Staying mentally and socially healthy Having regular check ups Taking prescribed medication to control risk factors and prevent complications Pacemakers are primarily designed to treat slow heart rhythms and atrial fibrillation. It is an electronic device that monitors the heart s rhythm and delivers a pulse to the heart at a programmed rate While coronary heart disease cannot be cured, treatment and lifestyle change can reduce symptoms and greatly reduce the risk of further complications. 5 Written and Reviewed by Veris Health Communications

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