Heart disease can affect anyone of any age, but as we get older, we are at a higher risk of developing a heart condition. This is because our muscles weaken, including the heart and the arteries that supply it with blood. Also, many of us become more sedentary as we age, and this can raise your chances of heart problems. Echelon Health understands that heart disease can seem complicated and frightening, but thankfully there are simple ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease and manage your symptoms. In this article, we explore the types of heart disease and how you can reduce your risk.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a term for a wide range of conditions that affect the heart and reduce its ability to pump blood around the body. These conditions range from minor issues that can be treated with medication to long-term conditions that need surgical intervention. Heart disease can affect anyone at any age, but after the age of 40, your heart is at greater risk as the muscle is weaker and your arteries stiffen. Below are some of the main types of heart disease and how they can affect your body.
Types Of Heart Disease
The term heart disease covers any condition affecting the coronary system. Some of the various types of heart disease are:
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) happens when the arteries sending blood to the heart are blocked. Plaque build-up causes them to narrow and harden, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood around the body.
Arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat, happens when the electrical impulses that control your heartbeat stop functioning correctly. When this happens, your heartbeat becomes erratic and can cause a person to lose consciousness or struggle to breathe.
Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects are birth defects in the heart which can go unnoticed for many years before they exhibit symptoms.
The medical term for a heart attack, a myocardial infarction happens when the blood flow is disrupted to a particular part of the heart. This can damage or destroy part of the heart, causing ongoing health problems and weakness for the patient. Often, heart attacks are caused by plaque build-up or a blockage in the arteries.
Dilated cardiomyopathy causes the chambers in the heart to dilate, meaning that the muscle tissues become thinner. This reduces the heart’s ability to function and makes pumping blood around the body harder.
Mitral Valve Regurgitation Or Prolapse
The mitral valve is a vital flap that regulates the direction of the blood to and from the heart. If it regurgitates, then it doesn’t close properly and allows blood to flow the wrong way, which puts pressure on the heart. A mitral valve prolapse means that the valve pushes into the left heart atrium and causes disruption, which can result in a heart murmur.
In some cases, the heart ceases to function correctly and stops pumping blood around the body, meaning urgent, life-saving treatment is needed to get it working again.
Heart Disease Symptoms In Adults Over 40
Heart disease can be treated, but only if you’re proactive and notice the symptoms promptly. Some common symptoms of heart disease in the over 40s include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trouble breathing
- Pain in the neck and jaw
- Numbness in the limbs and extremities
- Routinely high blood pressure
If you’re concerned that you might have heart disease, then visit your doctor immediately and discuss your symptoms with them. They can offer advice and check to see if the issues are minor and provide treatment where necessary.
Heart Disease Risk Factors In Adults Over 40
Heart disease can strike anyone at any time, but the over-40s are at a higher than usual risk as the body slows down, and your heart and blood vessels start to weaken with age.
Some heart disease risk factors for adults over 40 include:
- High blood pressure
- Smoking and smoke exposure
- Obesity, a high-fat diet and inactivity
- High cholesterol
- Family history of heart disease
If heart disease isn’t managed effectively, then it can become fatal. It can also lead to serious health complications such as weakness and long-term breathing difficulties.
Heart Disease Prevention In Adults Over 40
Heart disease is preventable, and there are many small lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce your risk of contracting it and developing heart issues. Some of these include exercising regularly, eating healthily, managing your stress levels and more. Below, we go into more detail about each of the ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease as you approach and pass 40.
Exercise For 30 To 60 Minutes A Day
Light exercise can help you to keep your heart muscles strong and healthy, as well as reduce stress hormones that put pressure on the organ. Try light exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming or playing a game such as tennis or badminton for 30 to 60 minutes a day.
Eat A Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet can reduce the amount of cholesterol in your body. Cholesterol travels around the body in the blood and can build up in the arteries, causing plaque. This can put pressure on your heart and cause several forms of heart disease. Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and very little red meat or processed food can help you to reduce your chances of heart disease and other health complications such as diabetes.
Go Smoke Free
Smoking increases the plaque in your arteries, which can lead to CAD and other forms of heart disease. So, if you smoke, you should try to quit for the sake of your heart and general health. Speak to your GP about support systems and techniques you can use to stop smoking.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleeping well can help you to stay healthy and reduce your blood pressure. It can also reduce your stress levels and cravings for cigarettes or salty foods. So, where possible, try to practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at a reasonable hour, avoiding screens before bed and listening to soothing music to help you sleep.
For more advice on practicing good sleep hygiene, please refer to our article World Sleep Day: Tips & advice.
Manage Stress Levels
Stress increases the levels of hormones in your body, which can lead to pressure on your heart. It can also lead you towards unhealthy habits, such as smoking or eating junk food, which can further damage your heart. So, where possible, try to manage your stress levels by avoiding stressful situations and seeking help if you need it.
Attend Health Screenings
Heart disease treatment is always most effective when delivered as early as possible. As such, you should undergo regular heart health checks to ensure that you catch any ailments early and improve your chances of living a healthy and fulfilling life. Through regular cardiac screenings, such as heart scans, you can monitor your:
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
- Heart’s electrical impulses
- Heart rate
- Surrounding blood vessels
- Blood flow
And other factors that could put a strain on your heart. Catching health issues early can make them easier to treat and reduce your chances of developing heart disease later in life.
For more information, please read our article on 5 ways to stay healthy after 40.
Heart Disease Treatment
While these lifestyle factors can help you to reduce your chances of heart disease, it’s impossible to prevent it completely. Heart disease can occur in everyone, particularly older adults. If you do suffer from any type of heart disease, then there are treatments that can improve your quality of life and reduce your chances of a heart attack.
One of the most important factors for a positive prognosis is discovering heart conditions at the earliest stage possible or even preventing an episode before it happens. A health assessment with your doctor will go a long way to allow you to understand your health and find ways of managing or improving it.
Regular health assessments are offered by the NHS from around age 40 for women and men starting with breast exams and prostate checks as appropriate. However as useful as these checks are they are not made for each person individually. Echelon Health believes that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to health, and we understand the value of early detection.
Using our vast medical experience and the best imaging technology available in the UK, we are determined to provide the most comprehensive health assessment possible. This covers heart disease, and our Healthy Heart package aims to detect various heart diseases at their earliest stages. It can help detect not only arrhythmia but also coronary heart disease and more. Here is what is included in our Healthy Heart assessment:
- Medical questionnaire
- Blood tests
- CT coronary angiogram
- Final consultation
Our Platinum Assessment is one of the most comprehensive in the world. Combining a thorough set of blood tests (over 40 parameters including cancer markers) and the best imaging technology available today through CT, MRI and ultrasound scans it can detect up to 92% and up to 95% of the causes of premature death among men and women respectively.
This package offers a full health screening; the following tests and scans are included in the platinum package:
- Blood Tests
- CT Aorta
- CT Heart
- CT Coronary Angiogram
- CT Chest
- CT Pelvis
- CT Virtual Colonoscopy
- CT Bone Density
- CT Upright Skeleton
- MRI Brain
- MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
- MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
- MRI Prostate
- Ultrasound Thyroid
- Ultrasound Testes/Ovaries
- Digital Mammogram
- Full Body Mole Screen
At Echelon Health we are focused on preventive health screenings and how they can help people better understand their health and how to improve it. It is far easier to take care of yourself and maintain your health when you have complete peace of mind.
If you want to find out more about your heart health, then book a consultation or scan with the healthcare experts at Echelon Health. Visit our health assessments page to find out more.