Coronary heart disease 


Heart attacks: detecting the symptoms

Actor Steven Berkoff explains how heart attack symptoms may not seem serious at first. Learn how to detect them and get help before it's too late.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the UK's biggest killer, around one in five men and one in seven women die from the disease. CHD causes around 94,000 deaths in the UK each year.

In the UK, there are an estimated 2.6 million people living with the condition and angina (the most common symptom of coronary heart disease) affects 2 million people. CHD affects more men than women, and your chances of getting it increase as you get older.

About the heart

The heart is a muscle that is 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.

Coronary heart disease

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. If your coronary arteries become narrow due to a build-up of atheroma, the blood supply to your heart will be restricted. This can cause angina (chest pains).

If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, it can cause a heart attack. The medical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction.

By making some simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of getting CHD. If you already have heart disease, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing further heart-related problems. Keeping your heart healthy will also have other health benefits, and help reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.


Last reviewed: 19/10/2010

Next review due: 19/10/2012


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Archangelbladewyn said on 10 March 2011

Good evening 'Tamworth man' have a word with your GP and ask him about 'cardioversion' which is one way of resolving your problem. I have had this procedure 5 years ago which corrected my AF. This was done in my local hospital on the NHS.

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tamworth man said on 26 February 2011

Artrial Fibrillation
I have AF now for a couple of years I was wondering if there is a cure /treatment so that ,one comes off Warfine and surgary etc. does any one know of anything that can assist anywhere in te world.
Thank you

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georgebuss said on 21 December 2010

@misswelsh1 why have you had to wait so long.
Are you high priority of Low????
People in private care get soon to really quick, I do think it is unfair, because not all of us can afford to go private. I think private health care should be abolished and all the money they make go to the NHS to grow their facilities even more and build more hospitals and buy better equipment and employ more doctors and nurses as their is a shortage in Neonatal nurses at the moment in most NHS run hospitals!

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georgebuss said on 21 December 2010

I find this stuff really interesting.
I am really interested in medicine and nursing and if I became a doctor I would love to be specialized in Cardiac Care Medicine. Or if I became a nurse I would like to do a practioner course and specialize in cardiac care.

The heart is just amazing the way it is built, it's amazing to think something that small is supplying our whole body with oxygenated blood. How Amazing!!!!!

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DenisenPaul said on 23 August 2010

Well my post is a lot different then yours, i have a 7 weeks old daughter who has been born with 2 VSD (wholes in her heart)She is under cardiology and goes for her next heart scan on the 3rd September, to decide what there plans for our daughters future are.
I would like to thank the NHS for all there help BUT i stress and i mean the word stress, if it wasn't for my pressure on the midwifes to get a pediatrician to check my daughter we would off been sent home not knowing, an she could of had a cardiac arrest at anytime.... So i wish the NHS would stop building all these new blocks and give back the jobs to the staff they need more then the outlook of a building,
Surely the NHS would benefit by patients having earlier on help instead of it being to late.

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gerr64 said on 06 July 2010

Went to doctor with breathing problems, doctor said either lung or heart problem, sent for x-ray,blood test and breathing test.
Breathing test confirmed lungs working normaly.
Tried to make appointment to see my doctor told she is away would have to see another doctor.
Saw other doctor told me i should not expect to feel well as i had smoked all my life,(gave up 6 months ago) I told him i am feeling ill he said would have to see my own doctor as different doctors give different advice.
I am now sat at home finding it hard to breath and having to wait a month till my own doctor returns.

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misswelsh1 said on 10 May 2010

hi im a 31 year old singe mum of 2 ... in july 2007 i had a shock of my like when i found out i needed open heart surgery 2 replace 3 valves !!!!! but its more of a shock that im still waiting nearly 3 years later . !! any1 else had to wait this long ???

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daisywright said on 19 January 2010

this is one of the impressive content I have ever read about heart disease.

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daisywright said on 19 January 2010

this one of the impressive information I have seen on heart disease.

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pricedot said on 29 September 2009

Hey People, I just returned from Hospital one week after i was admitted with a Cardiac Arrest , Now carry a few Stints upon my Person and thanks to the NHS staff who looked after me, i now Exercise, Stopped Smoking and eat more healthy than i ever did at Roadside Snackbars .

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imaging student said on 14 September 2009

German based research into MRI is demonstrating whole body angiographic studies in approx 20 minutes and less using high speed protocols (turboFLASH i think). whole body angiography has been proven to highlight disease vessels not detetected under conventional MRI, CT and digital subtration angiography.

is anyone out there aware of plans to bring this technology (or similar screening principles i.e. C-reactive protein based blood test) into the NHS/primary care?

it would make sense as atherosclerosis/CHD/Stroke are all interconnected!

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eden01 said on 08 September 2009

I am sorry that jay724 is having such a long wait to see a cardiologist, but I would take this as a positive sign. I am 31 years old, and I went to my doctor thinking i had severe indigestion - he gave me an immediate ECG, which came out 'abnormal'. That day he referred me to a fast access clinic, where I was seen the following week. Precautionary drugs were prescribed, and an angiogram booked for three days time. (Monday, appt - Thurs, angio.)
Now I am on combination drugs, and awaiting an angioplasty to fit several stents and open things back up, and hoping to get some quality of life back.
Givene the horror stories of young women being ignored or humoured, I never expected to be taken seriously when I first visited my doc. Now, several hospital visits, a trip to A and E, and a few ops later, I am inclined to think that if you are not rushed to a cardiologists, your chance of survival is better than mine was. Maybe it is not urgent, in which case, although it's scary, I would smile and be pleased your doctor does not think you are about to have a heart attack.

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jay724 said on 10 July 2009

If Coronary Heart disease is the 'UK's biggest killer' why does it take so long to get a first appointment to see a cardiologist?
Surely, on the basis that 'prevention is better than cure' it would be more efficient to quickly diagnose and treat cardiac problems thus reducing the number of heart attacks and the resultant strain on ambulance and A&E services!!
My current wait to see a cardiologist is my first contact with the NHS for 10 years and quite frankly I'm not impressed!!!

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doctor2010 said on 01 June 2009

This fails to mention that a complete occlusion of a coronary artery is not necessary to precipitate a "heart attack" and that chronic high-grade stenosis of a coronary artery, in the absence of complete occlusion of a thrombus (clot), is sufficient to cause myocardial ischaemia leading to myocardial infarction or sudden death.

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