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U.K. Heart Disease


Heart Attacks And Strokes

The U.K. has one of the highest rates of death from heart disease in the world and one British adult dies from the disease every three minutes.

It is the U.K.'s third biggest killer and claims around 70,000 lives every year.

Heart attacks most frequently occur because blood flow is blocked because of a blood clot whereas strokes are generally caused by either blocked or burst blood vessels in the brain.

A range of other conditions which include heart failure occur when the blood is not pumped properly around the body and congenital heart defects can also cause long term problems and even death.

Heart Disease

The heart pumps blood around the body carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the areas that need it and when this process is interrupted or does not function properly then serious illness and even death can result. The risk of heart disease is greater for people with poor diet, those who smoke and do not exercise and men are more likely to suffer from it than women.

A range of tests and treatments which include drugs, heart bypass surgery and transplants exist in order to alleviate symptoms and in some cases save the lives of sufferers.

A Stroke

There are two kinds of stroke, those which are caused by blood clots in the brain and those which occur when blood vessels burst.

In both cases the brain is starved of oxygen which in turn damages or kills cells.

Sufferers are often left with speech impediments and problems with walking and performing other basic tasks. The chance of suffering from a stroke are reduced by eating healthily, quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol.

Following a stroke, many drug treatments are available and rehabilitation is commonly used to improve patients' speech and movement.

Although both heart disease and stroke may be inherited in most cases they are as a result of the person's lifestyle and changing one's eating habits, exercising more and reducing or stopping smoking will play a significant role in prevention.

The Risk Factors


Four out of five people who die from coronary heart disease are aged sixty five or older and the risk of having a stroke doubles with each decade after the age of fifty five.


Men are more at risk than women and have attacks earlier in life but death rates from heart disease and stroke for women are twice as high as those for all forms of cancer. The risk for women increases as they approach menopause and continues to rise as they get older which is perhaps because of a loss of the natural hormone oestrogen.

Family history

Children whose parents suffered from heart disease are more likely to suffer from the disease and some races such as Afro-Caribbeans are more prone to coronary heart disease and stroke than others races.


People that smoke are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks as non-smokers and are also more likely to die as a result. Smoking is also linked to increased risk of stroke because the nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke damages the cardiovascular system.

Women who smoke and take the oral contraceptives are at high risk of heart disease and stroke.


Drinking an average of more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men will most likely increase the risk of heart disease and stroke because of the alcohol's effect on blood pressure, weight and the levels of triglycerides which are a type of fat carried in the blood. "Binge drinking's is particularly dangerous.

Drug Abuse

The use of certain drugs, particularly cocaine and those taken intravenously has been linked to heart disease and stroke.

Cocaine can cause abnormal heartbeat which may be fatal whilst both heroin and opiates can cause lung failure.

Injecting drugs can also cause an infection of the heart or blood vessels.


The higher one's blood cholesterol level the higher the risk of coronary heart disease particularly if it is combined with any of the other risk factors. Diet is one cause of high cholesterol and the others are age, sex and family history. High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or "bad cholesterol" are dangerous while high levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or "good cholesterol" will lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Blood pressure

High blood pressure increases the heart's workload causing it to enlarge and weaken over time and this when combined with obesity, smoking, high cholesterol or diabetes increases the risk several times.

High blood pressure can also be a problem in women who are pregnant or are taking high dose types of oral contraceptive pills.

Physical Inactivity

Lack of proper exercise is another cause of coronary heart disease as physical activity helps control cholesterol levels, diabetes and in some cases can also help lower blood pressure.


People who are overweight are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have none of the other risk factors because excess weight causes extra strain on the heart, affects blood pressure, cholesterol and levels of other blood fats including the triglycerides and also increases the risk of developing diabetes.


Diabetes seriously increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease even if glucose levels are under control and more than 80% of diabetes sufferers die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

Previous medical history

People who have had a previous heart attack or stroke are more likely than others to suffer further events.


Some research suggests a link between stress and coronary artery disease and this might be because it encourages people to eat more, to start smoking or to smoke more than they would otherwise have done.

Prevention and Education

Encouraging people to stop smoking, to drink less, to eat better and to exercise regularly are particularly important and people who are most at risk should have regular blood pressure readings, height and weight monitoring and tests for cholesterol levels.

The American Heart Association recommends that blood pressure should not be more than 140 over 90 Hg and it recommends a series of diets with no more than 30% of calories coming in the form of fats and limiting calories in the form of saturated fats to between 7 and 10%.

People at risk should have less than 200mg dietary cholesterol per day and sodium intake which is most commonly found in salt should also be controlled.


Between three and four sessions of moderate exercise every week lasting around thirty minutes each are recommended as a minimum.

One's ideal body mass index (BMI) is calculated by dividing your weight by the square of your height in and it should be between 21 and 25 - or click here to have us do it for you.

The preferred waist circumference is 102cm (40 inches) for men and no more than 88cm (35 inches) for women.