About the heart
The heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It pumps blood around your body and beats approximately 70 times a minute. After the blood leaves the right side of the heart, it goes to your lungs, where it picks up oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood returns to your heart and is then pumped to the organs of your body through a network of arteries. The blood returns to your heart through veins before being pumped back to your lungs again. This process is called circulation. The heart gets its own supply of blood from a network of blood vessels on the surface of your heart, called coronary arteries.
Why does coronary heart disease happen?
Coronary heart disease is the term that describes what happens when your heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries. Over time, the walls of your arteries can become furred up with fatty deposits. This process is known as atherosclerosis and the fatty deposits are called atheroma. Atherosclerosis can be caused by lifestyle habits and other conditions, such as:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
Diagnosing coronary heart disease
If your doctor feels you are at risk of CHD, they may carry out a risk assessment. This involves asking about your medical and family history, your lifestyle and taking a blood test. Further tests may be needed to confirm a diagnosis of CHD, including:
- an electrocardiogram (ECG)
- an X-ray
- an MRI scan
- a CT scan
- coronary angiography
Treating coronary heart disease
Although coronary heart disease cannot be cured, treatment can help manage the symptoms and reduce the chances of problems such as heart attacks. Treatment can include lifestyle changes, such as doing regular exercise and stopping smoking, as well as medication and surgery.
If you have problems such as a heart attack, or have any heart surgery, it is possible to eventually resume your normal life. Advice and support is available to help you deal with aspects of your life that may have been affected by CHD.
By making some simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of getting CHD. These include:
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- being physically active
- giving up smoking
- controlling blood cholesterol and sugar levels
Keeping your heart healthy will also have other health benefits, and help reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.
Source: NHS Choices, UK (Heart attack)